Margaret Laurence??™s A Bird in the House, is a short story that narratives a young girl??™s journey from the innocence of childhood to the experience of adulthood. The narrative style of the stories is important, since it is through Vanessas own eyes that we learn of her family and life – yet the eyes belong to an older, wiser Vanessa, remembering her own childhood from a future point years later. A number of themes and sub themes are established in the novel, but perhaps the most prominent is the theme of lack of freedom. The characters in the story are physically and emotionally bound by certain laws.
Birds are a class of vertebrates that live in nature. Most of them are characterized by an ability to fly, free to roam the sky. They are not meant to live in captivity. Therefore, the short story entitled “Bird in the House” suggests a theme of entrapment and a struggle for freedom, a topic that resonates throughout the novel, where all the characters in the novel are entrapped. Vanessa is one character who experiences a sense of confinement in the story. Her family lives with her grandmother MacLeod, a oppressive woman who loves order, and who wants to continue living like she did in the past, with a housekeeper to cook and clean, and enough money to spend.
Another person who experiences emotional confinement is Ewen. Guilt-ridden by feelings of responsibility for his brothers death in the war. Ewen hints that the time when he was at war was a time when he was free. He says “It was kind of interesting to see a few other places for a change. He also hires Noreen, a housekeeper, to appease his mother and Noreen reveals to Vanessa later on that “a bird in the house means a death in the house”, which predicts Ewens death. After Ewens death Vanessa finds a love letter and a picture of a girl that she believes was her fathers lover. Vanessa realises that her father had been free when he was not at home. Thus, it is clear that Ewens memories are what prevented him from reaching personal freedom. Upon death, Ewen is, at last, free from his house.
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“Bird in the House” is symbolically appropriate titles for the stories that they tell. “A Bird in the House”? alludes to the entrapment that Vanessa and Ewen separately experience during their lives and it foreshadows Ewens death. Vanessa felt trapped in a home she cant really call home. Ewen had personal freedom when he was away at war, he was away from home and this was a time in which he was happy. The theme of lack of freedom is evident throughout A Bird in the House and every character in the stories is trapped in the pain of their memories and regrets.
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