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A Bird In The House
Transcript of A Bird In The House
Vanessa, the protagonist, is a twelve year old girl growing up in the 1930's. She feels very trapped in this story as well as others - she also feels very guilty and responsible for the events that take place within the story.
-One main theme of 'A Bird in the House"
is one of entrapment
-Vanessa always feels trapped, and the
title immediately creates a mood of
helplessness and hopelessness when
applied to the emotions set in the book.
-Another central theme is empathy in
regards to loss of innocence - primarily
the loss of innocence that goes hand in
hand with a parents death.
Beth is the mother of Vanessa and her brother, Roderick. She is timid and shies away from conflict. The only time the reader sees a truly multi-dimensional Beth in this short story is when she converses with her sister.
This story, like many others in the book, is full of literary devices. Symbolism is one of the main literary devices she uses. She also uses some foreshadowing for Ewen's death. Margaret Laurence uses raw emotion in this story in order to empathize with the characters of this story. This story makes Vanessa rethink her emotional values and begin her journey of life without her father.
Ewen is Vanessa's father. This story is the first when the reader really starts to see Ewen as a multi-dimensional character, and first sees his relationship with Vanessa.
Noreen comes to work for the Macloed family in this story, and she is characterized as a very strong believer in God, spirits, and the afterlife. She is not a dynamic character - however as Vanessa's perspective of her changes, it appears as though she is.
Grandmother MacLeod is the mother of Ewen. She is a very proper woman. An issue of hers is dealing with her son Roderick's death on Remembrance Day, and an issue at the end is dealing with the death of Ewen, her son.
A Bird In The House' is a story of love and loss - and of the realization of death first truly being discovered by a young girl devastated by tragedy and hardship during the Great Depression.
Point of View
-The story is told from Vanessa's point
of view, However it is told in flashbacks;
she recalls the stories as an older woman.
-Vanessa has a different perspective than
her parents, which she is able to express
better as her older self.
-This is particularly interesting in regards
to Noreen, because although the
character is static Vanessa's opinion of her is very dynamic.
-"I no longer saw her through the eyes of the expressed opinions of my mother and father, as a girl who had quit schools grade eight and whose life on the farm had been endlessly drab." (pg 97)
There are examples of both internal and external conflict.
Internally, Vanessa is conflicted when she doesn't go to the parade and when she is questioning her beliefs of Heaven and Hell.
There is conflict between Vanessa and Noreen after Ewen's death.
- Remembrance Day parade
- Uncle Roderick
- Noreen and God
- A Bird in the House
- Evening Church
- Father dies
- Vanessa attacks Noreen
- Hidden letter and picture
"The parade was almost over by now, and I had not gone."
[About Grandmother MacLeod] "Her men were gone, her husband and her sons, and a family whose men are gone is no family at all."
No manly figure is left to provide for the family.
The MacLeod House
During the Great Depression
Town of Manawaka
Remembrance Day to mid winter
Cold and snowy
Sad, somber, hopeless, and disheartening
"I sat on the lowest branch of the birch tree in our yard, not minding the snowy wind, even welcoming its punishment."
"I'm a poor lonesome cowboy
An' a long way from home
I ain't got no father
To buy the clothes I wear
I'm a poor lonesome - "
"A bird in the house means a death in the house ... That's what I've heard, anyhow."
"And after a while the first mourning stopped, too, as everything does sooner or later, for when the limits of endurance have been reached, then people must sleep."
"Momentarily I felt a sense of calm, almost of acceptance, Rest beyond the river. I knew now what that meant, It meant Nothing. It meant only silence, forever." (pg. 105)
"I felt physically sick, remembering the fearful darting and plunging of those wings, and the fact that it was I who opened the window and let it in."
Relates to superstition
The mahogany desk itself, with its secret compartment, represents Vanessa's father.
Hidden drawer = Hidden aspect of her father
“...absurdly old fashioned to my eyes...she seemed neither expensive nor cheap. She looked like what she probably had been - an ordinary middle-class girl, but in another country. She wore her hair in long ringlets, and her mouth was shaped into a sweetly sad posed smile…” (pg 107)
She would never completely understand the letter, as it was in French, which can mean Vanessa may never truly understand her father and how he lived his life
By burning the picture and letter, she is setting her father free.
The sparrow stuck in the window and flying into the house is an incredibly important symbol.
The storm window the bird was stuck in “...had three circular holes in its frame so that some fresh air could seep into the house.” (pg 98).
Three holes = three deaths
The actions of the bird while in the
house also has an important role in
setting the mood and feeling of the story.
“...instead of remaining quiet and allowing us to catch it in order to set it free, it began flying blindly around the room, hitting the lampshade, brushing against the walls, its wings seeming to spin faster and faster.” (pg 98)
”There was something in the bird’s senseless movement that revolted me… I was no longer worried about the sparrow. I wanted only to avoid the sight of it lying broken on the floor.” (pg 98)
Vanessa’s experience with
the bird can be related to
her experiences with life:
trapped, and lonely.
-Vanessa accidentally lets a bird into the house.
"A bird in the house means a death in the house." (pg 98)
Impacts the mood, theme, and plot of all the short stories
"...in my heart I felt I was betraying my father."
"As I watched the smile of the girl turn into scorched paper, I grieved for my father as though he had just died now."
“I looked for a long time at that girl, and hoped she had meant some momentary and unexpected freedom. I remembered what he had said to me, after I hadn’t gone to the Remembrance Day parade.” (Page 107)
The hymn recited at the evening Church service when Vanessa and her father went is a symbol relating to Grandmother Connor.
"Near the Cross, near the Cross
Be my glory ever,
Till my ransomed soul shall find
Rest beyond the river" (pg 100)
“I wondered why her soul needed to be ransomed. If God did not think she was good enough just as she was, then I did not have much use for His opinion." (pg 100)
Foreshadows Ewen's death.
“Rest beyond the river - was that what had happened to her? She had believed in Heaven, but I did not think that beyond the river was quite what she had in mind.” (pg 100)
“Momentarily I felt a sense of
calm, almost of acceptance.
Rest beyond the river. I knew
now what that meant. It meant
Nothing. It meant only silence,
forever." (pg 105)
By not going, Vanessa disrespected her father.
Vanessa relates freedom between the picture and her father.