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Siren Song

Siren Song

by Margaret Atwood

Stanza 8 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 22-24

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

  • But by line 22, after more enjambment, we find out that "this song" is actually a cry for help. The speaker needs us to save her and, since we're so "unique," we're the only ones who can do so. Flattery will get you everywhere.
  • What hero can resist those tempting words: "Help me!" As if the speaker luring us in with flattering words wasn't bad enough, we see her here begging us to save her from those "feathery maniacs" and that fatal island. 
  • So, by now we feel like we know the Siren's secret: her song is really a cry for help and now that we've finally shown up, it's time to be the hero and do what we have to do, right?
  • We have more anaphora here (and flattery) in that repeated "only you" clause. So the speaker hasn't given up on the special talk, since we're not quite there and we haven't saved her yet. 
  • It also looks like Atwood is working with that predator-prey theme some more in the context of man's vanity. As we're made to feel special and "unique," we're duped into actually believing the Siren and taking that call as a cry for help. Maybe the speaker is revealing the idea that man plays the hero because of his own ego rather than some great cause. And at this point, that tactic is working pretty well since we're almost completely lured in.

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