Analysis of the Variations of the Word Sleep

Topics: Love, Sentence, Lust Pages: 2 (784 words) Published: December 8, 2011
What feels like a letter to a lover, Margaret Atwood uses her poem “Variation on the word Sleep” to depict the feelings of love, lust and desire. Atwood uses the persona of someone who feels the need to protect as the narrator of her piece. He tone is intimate and personal and her use of imagery captures the audience as Atwood metaphorically describes the speaker’s yearning. Through the use of imagery and an intimate tone, Atwood shows multiple variations of the word sleep by incorporating three main themes in the poem: love, lust and desire.

The first line in the poem quickly introduces the theme of love. The poem begins with “I would like to watch you sleeping” (678.1). We see the narrator as being straightforward, expressing their love for their lover. Sleeping is a person’s most vulnerable state and it seems like the narrator is almost asking for permission to not only watch them sleep but to love them. We see this in the next line, “which may not happen” (678.2). The speaker is asking permission as well as recognizing the hopelessness of this goal. Moreover, throughout the poem we see many acts of kindness one would only do with a lover. The narrator suggests entering their lover’s sleep and protecting them from their worst fears, “towards the cave where you must descend, /towards your worse fear” (678.11-12). This shows that the narrator is in such a deep love they are willing to do whatever it takes to be with their lover, to protect them.

The theme of lust is portrayed throughout the poem as well. The title itself gives off the idea that there is more than one meaning for the word “sleep.” To watch someone sleep shows love and adoration. To sleep with someone describes lust and sexual desires. The imagery Atwood uses while referring to the four elements of life gives the reader a lustful taste of the poem. Atwood describes the sleep as a “smooth dark wave” (678.6) representing water as well as “the boat that would row you back” (678.21). She...
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