Feed on

Perched there at the lip of the roof, its feet clutching the drainpipe as if welded to it, the bird was a coil of possibility, a muscle relaxed against the moment of tension. (109)

When I read this sentence of the story, I immediately see the bird as a metaphor for the child.  The phrase “its feet clutching the drainpipe as if welded to it” (109) can be seen as a visual representation of how the boy must feel inside. Rigid, tense, unsure, and scared. However, the the bird’s symbolic meaning in the story is mysterious not only to the reader, but also to the narrator, a young, adolescent boy who fascinated by sex. Will it fly? Will it stay? What could be its reason for staying perched on the roof? The suspense of not knowing what is going to happen to this bird feeds the child’s own disheartened view of himself. Due to the boy’s religious background, he feels ashamed that he is experiencing such desire for all things related to sex. Yet, somehow he is captivated by the possibility of what the bird might do, so he stays. At the end of the story, the bird raises its wings only to expose the damage underneath its seemingly unmarked body. The “secret, raw, red, and wet” (109) wound on the bird can be interpreted as a metaphor for the boy’s own secrets.

After the class discussion, I see how the boy feels shame for his thoughts and actions throughout the story. At first, it didn’t occur to me that the boy’s shame stems from his emerging awareness of sexuality. Now, I can pick up on all of the clues that hint towards this central idea. The bird might not only be a symbol or metaphor that represents the boy, but it can also a metaphor for how the boy begins to think and feel about girls. In the first sentence of the story, the bird is compared to a woman with “long legs naked and exposed underneath a skirt of jagged feathers.” (106) The boy views sex as something mysterious and secret to him, “I glanced up and saw my father in the back of the crowd, standing close to Mrs. Schlecta and whispering something in her ear. Her lips were wet. I didn’t know where my mother was.” (107) The story represents the shame a child feels growing up in a society where curiosity about sexual matters is discouraged.

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