Bird Symbolism

The first screeching of the caged parrot, hung outside the pension on the island of Grand Isle, "Get out! Get out!" establishes the symbolism of a bird in a cage. Edna is a bird. Her cage is gilded; it is comfortable, but nevertheless, it confines her. Marriage and motherhood restrict Edna. She is described as having "quick, bright" eyes. There is something bird-like about her appearance. The cries of "Get out! Get out!" are heard again in the book. Although this symbolism is not particularly subtle, the recurrence is dramatic. In a conversation about art, the musician Mademoiselle Reisz puts her arms around Edna and feels her shoulder blades, to see if her wings are strong, for she says, "that the bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth." Here again we see the image of a bird in relation to Edna.

When Edna moves out of her husband's house into a tiny place of her own, her new shelter is called "the pigeon house." Pigeons are not caged; they are free to come and go, unlike the parrot who has been tamed and domesticated. Edna views the pigeon house as a place where she can be free of her habitual constraints, and for the first time in her life exercise her independence.

The last example of bird imagery occurs at the end of the book where Edna sees "a bird with a broken wing . . . beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water." Right after enters the waters of the Gulf for the last time.