Essay on Exploring Variations on the Word Love by Margaret Atwood

Words: 1663
Pages: 7

Exploring Variations on the Word Love

Question: How do(es) the use, meanings, connotations and denotations of the central image of the word “love” change(s) in Maragret Atwood’s Variations on the Word Love and also whether the poem may be viewed as a love poem.

Since time immemorial, the concept of love and its definition have been highly personal and truly unique phenomena. They have been the source and product of comedy, tragedy and everything in between. Poets have praised and despised it, the media has sold it and mankind has ever longed for and misunderstood it. In her poem, Variations on the Word Love, Margaret Atwood juxtaposes the connotations and denotations of the word “love” in order to comment on the misrepresentation
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Further on, one encounters more of the cheapness and misuse of the word “love”. Atwood describes “Magazines with not much in them / but the word “love”. The choice of the line break placement is significant in that it tells one that these magazines lack any meaningful content, yet they are littered with the word “love”. This immediately makes one aware of the fact that even though they speak of love, they express very little about it in the way of true significance. She goes on to say that “You can rub it all over your body and you / can cook with it too.” These might very well be the types of love mentioned in the aforementioned magazines. These are types of love that (even though they appeal to similar parts of the human heart as genuine love, in terms of imagery and connotation) are also fundamentally superficial, frail and ephemeral.
In lines 13 to 20, one is met with an even more hopeless view on the word “love”. Images of cold, clammy depravity are brought forward by means of the “Cool debaucheries of slugs”, ideas of aversion to the invasive persona that love can assume in the shape of “weed-seedlings nosing their tough snouts up among the lettuces” as well as the ultimate destruction that love can bring about in the guise of “Soldiers, raising their glittering knives.” All of these aspects of love “voice” their “affections” as they were intended to or