by Margaret Atwood
Stanza 4 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
- Ah, you know we were waiting for this part: the chance to hear the "secret" and finally be the special one to survive it all. The speaker at this point is really falling right into character here as a Siren, seducing us like she seduces all of those other dead sailors. But we got this, right?
- Notice she's offering a deal here. If she tells us what we've been dying to know, we'll need to get her out of that "bird suit."
- Remember, Sirens were mythical creatures that were half woman and half bird, hence the "bird suit" metaphor. Check out our "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" section for more.
- But there's something else in that metaphor. We're getting the feeling that this Siren isn't so crazy about her job. That "bird suit" sounds more like an annoying uniform you have to wear if you work at McDonald's than anything else.
- It's not the sexy feathery imagery that's typically associated with the Sirens in most myths. This bird suit is a pain to wear and it doesn't even sound like it's part of her, seeing as how she wants us to get her out of it.
- So by line 12 we're getting a special peek behind all of the allure and things aren't looking too mythical and mysterious. The Sirens sound more like a sham than the kinds of supernatural creatures they're supposed to be.
- Notice too that we have seen a subtle shift in the speaker's tone and purpose. Instead of talking only about the mysterious song, the speaker has chosen to focus more on us and how we can help her get out of that bird outfit. So things are sounding a bit more personalized and special, which is perfect since we just might make a deal with this Siren if she keeps flattering us like she is.