Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing Questions and Answers
by Margaret Atwood

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What is the overall theme and/or message in the poem "Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing" by Margaret Atwood? I think that the speaker here is a stripper justifying herself and explaining what she does, but I don't quite understand what her message is.

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The theme of Atwood's poem "Helen of Toy Does Countertop Dancing" is pride and resolution. The woman in the poem is clearly a stripper, but she is defending her career vehemently, lauding the benefits it serves and decrying the sad state of affairs other jobs offer. There is a clear juxtaposition in the content of the poem—such as stating that she is "naked as a meat sandwich", which seems vulgar and demeaning—and the intent, which is to show pride and resolve to continue doing what she is doing.

This poem is written partly as a piece of feminist solidarity, where the woman, as a sex worker, is entitled to feel pride in what she does, while also deserving to have her rights and personage protected. Elevating this woman to a status that feels like a more legitimate career while also giving her the moniker of "Helen of Troy", a much-desired and lauded historical woman, gives the narrator strength and dignity which is typically restricted from sex workers.

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