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.

When I read this sentence of the story, I immediately saw the bird as a metaphor for the child.  The phrase “its feet clutching the drainpipe as if welded to it” 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 appears to be exactly what the quote states: possibility. Will it fly? Will it stay? What could be its reason for remaining so still? The intensity of not knowing what is going to happen to this bird feeds the child’s own disheartened view of himself. 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 show the damage underneath its seemingly unaffected stance. The “secret, raw, red, and wet” wound of the bird is a reflection of the boy’s own hidden secrets.

After our 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 can stem from his adolescence and his emerging awareness of sexuality, but I picked up on all of the clues that hinted toward this central theme. The bird might not only be a symbol or metaphor that represents the boy but also a metaphor for how the boy begins to think and feel about girls. In the story’s first sentence, the bird is compared to a woman with long naked legs that are exposed. In a way, the story represents the shame a child feels growing up in a society where curiosity about sexual matters is discouraged.

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