Study Guide

Siren Song Speaker

By Margaret Atwood


Our speaker of "Siren Song" is a… Siren, so we get to hear what these ladies are all about directly from the source. No need to call Odysseus in on it this time. But she's not the kind of Siren from the eight century BC. Typically, we don't hear much from the Sirens because, well, anyone who has heard their song is dead. Usually we just learn from sailors that they're super-hot and sing these enchanting songs that can kill you if you're not careful. End of story. But this Siren is modern with a little bit of attitude and sass and we even get to hear her speak like one of us. She could be straight out of Mean Girls, Siren-style, complaining about how "bored" she is.

Her casual and informal voice is what really adds that modern flare. She doesn't need prescribed meters and rhymes to catch our attention. In fact, she's aware that times have changed and that folks nowadays don't need all of that in a poem. So she uses familiar idiomatic words and phrases like bird suit, feathery maniacs, and squatting to make us feel more comfortable. Her syntax is familiar too (the way she phrases things) and might even make us feel like she's someone we know when she says things like, "will you get me out of this bird suit?"

We also can't forget that our speaker is sneaky and clever too, though, all while sounding modern and hip. She lures us in with her enchanting talk about the "song everyone would like to learn" without actually telling us she's been singing the song to us all along. She flatters us in the way a seductive villain might, and makes us feel "unique" without appearing particularly "mythical."

It's interesting, we think, that the way this speaker gets to us as readers is through that unique angle. Could this poem be highlighting a key marketing technique? Think about: everything that is sold these days can be customized (cars, iPhones, software—you name it) to reflect the shiny, special, pure nugget of humanity that is Y-O-U. But do we really need to spend money to be a unique person? These companies sure seem to think so. And guess who else does. That's right, our super-seductive Siren-speaker.

So, while we're busy looking for the "mythical" and dangerous Siren, we forget that we're actually talking to the real deal, which makes those "secrets" of hers all the more appealing. Plus, since she makes us feel bad for her in that "bird suit" and with her "cry for help," we can't help but feel obligated to help her. She sounds so familiar and honest—why wouldn't we trust her? And there you have the makings of a true, modern Siren.