The Role of the Sirens in Homer's Odyssey Essay

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The Role of the Sirens in Odyssey

The Sirens in the Odyssey represent more than just a maritime danger to the passing ship. They are the desires of man that he cannot have. The Sirens can also be construed as forbidden knowledge or some other taboo object. Whatever these singing women actually are, the sailors are wise to avoid them. As usual, the wily Odysseus cheats at the rules of the game by listening to their song under the restraints constructed by his crew.

In their critical review, Horkheimer and Adorno treat the song of the Sirens as a forbidden knowledge of everything. The Sirens represent man's enlightenment. The two writers state, "Even though the Sirens know all that has happened, they demand the future as the price
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Ahab was destroyed by his siren, which was an elusive whale named Moby Dick. Blanchot points out, "Ahab and the whale are engaged in a drama, what we can call a metaphysical drama, using the word loosely, and the Sirens and Ulysses are engaged in the same struggle...The result is a sort of victory for him, a dark disaster for Ahab" (Blanchot 44). Ahab obviously could not resist his siren, and it spelled the end for him. Odysseus realized the danger and took measures to protect his crew from the irresistible urge that would pull them to their doom.

Of the two reviews cited, the latter is probably the most appropriate for the epic. Ahab's passion is a great example of the result of a siren's draw on a man toward self inflicted ruin. Portraying the Sirens' song as a tease for enlightenment that comes at a price may be just as good of an example, but it doesn't give the reader a taste for the pull toward the rocks. The writing by Horkheimer and Adorno goes further off into some other purpose. They reference machinery, production and progress in their review. This sounds like they are leading the reader toward a Ted Kazynski conclusion on enlightenment and the technology that comes with it. Blanchot paints a better comparison with his reference to human desires and passions.

It is human to have forbidden desires. For some people, these are alcohol and cigarettes. Others cannot resist criminal
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