Feed on

So, I thought, kneeling there in the dark, crushed with shame, there’s a name for it. I looked at the shadowy grill, looked toward the source of soothing absolution, the voice of forgiveness and hope, and I lied. “No,” I whispered… I threw the first stone.

I found “Rara Avis” to be surprisingly powerful for its length. T.C. Boyle is able to suggest the narrator’s emerging understanding of sexuality through blatant representations such as pornographic magazines and Wayne’s deck of smutty playing cards and, indirectly, through the symbol of the bird. In the beginning of the story, the narrator views the bird as “a woman or girl… long legs naked beneath a skirt of jagged feathers…” and then, later in the story, he sees the bird’s wound as something “secret, raw, red, and wet… just above the juncture of the legs…” In the passage quoted above, and from that point on, the story directly addresses the narrator’s struggle with sexuality.

Twice in the story the narrator denies himself salvation: once when lying to the priest about masturbation and again, in the story’s final scene, when throwing the first stone at the bird (a reference to a biblical line used in response to an accusation of adultery). I interpret this as a rather violent denial of himself and of his emerging sexuality and, from a conservative Christian point of view, his own sins.

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