Although Atwood’s attitude towards love appears bitter in the first stanza, this completely changes at the start of the second stanza when she says, “Then there’s the two of us. This word is far too short for us, it has only four letters.” When reading this line, the reader clearly understands that Atwood’s bitterness is not towards love, but the misinterpretation of it by the people. Atwood describes love as a “single vowel in this metallic silence.” She feels very strongly that the word “love” is “not enough but it will have to do” and concludes the poem by leaving the readers to decide on their own if they want to “hold on or let go” of love. This portrays that love is a very subjective feeling, which has diverse effects on different persons.
Atwood further expresses that love is complex and diverse by writing her poem in free verse. The absence of distinct structure reinforces the idea that love does not follow a strict pattern or structure either. As stated in the appropriate title, love has many variations. These variations do not allow love to be presented easily or accurately by one simple definition. Her line breaks are irregular, making the poem unpredictable, which is another characteristic of love; furthermore, the absence of rhyme in a poem about love challenges preconceptions of how love should be expressed.
Throughout “Variations on the Word Love,” Atwood explores the topic of love in terms of connotation versus denotation. As a word, love has become so altered that it has lost significance. Therefore, as a feeling, love is too deep and intimate to be represented by such a short word. Her drastic change in diction and attitude further show that love has many different sides and can be viewed from different perspectives.