The Use of Mythological Allusions in Margaret Atwood's Poetry

835 Words Nov 3rd, 2012 4 Pages
Julie Mewhinney
October 16th, 2012
J. Edwards
Mythology: Because I’m Too Jaded to Write about Love An allusion is a casual or passing reference to a famous historical or fictional character. In poetry, allusions are often used to help reinforce a point or characterize the speaker or the addressee. In the case of Margaret Atwood’s poems, “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing” and “Sekhmet Lion-Headed Goddess of War”, allusions are used to empower and change the way we view the female speaker. This is especially obvious in “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing”. The poem is about a stripper, which is considered to be quite a degrading job in today’s society. Normally such a protagonist would be looked down upon and pitied by
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The speaker in this poem seems to be Sekhmet herself, or at least a statue of her, much like in “Siren’s Song”, where the sirens are the speakers. In mythology, Sekhmet is the daughter of the sun god Ra, who unleashes her upon the world to bring vengeance upon those who have rebelled against him. She goes crazy with blood-lust and begins to kill everyone resulting in her being tricked into drinking red dyed beer by the men of the day in order to stop her killing rampage. With a bit of cleaver emphasis, and a feminist viewpoint, Atwood turns Sekhmet into a proud and fearsome warrior queen, who is not content to sit in a museum with the god “…who wouldn’t hurt a fly” (Sekhmet, 2), Osiris, and who would like to go back to the days when she was worshipped, not just shown to children learning about cultural diversity. Both of these poems utilize strong female characters in their allusions, most probably because Atwood tends to write from a feminist viewpoint and likes her woman to have ower over the men, as opposed to in the majority of society, where the view is quite patriarchal, and the men tend to hold power over the women. Helen of Troy, the femme fatale who caused one of the greatest conflicts of the ancient world, and Sekhmet one of the most revered, and certainly the

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