An Analysis of A Bird in the House by Margaret Laurence

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Margaret Laurence’s symbolically titled A Bird in the House, follows the protagonist, Vanessa, through the retelling of her youth and the untimely death of her father, Ewen. Like the image of the sparrow “caught between the two layers of glass”(145), Vanessa and her father are caught in the rigid confines of the never “endearing” MacLeod household. The relationship between Vanessa and her father is unable to flourish due to the repressive nature of their environment, but it is in how they choose to accept this that they differ. Their sufferance of confinement and guilt, along with unorthodox religious views, Vanessa and Ewen are obliviously similar yet distinctively different in their attitudes. Their relationship illustrates how easily a parent child connection can be hindered when both parties are ignorant to clear communication. Vanessa’s allusion escape is a direct result of her father’s untimely death. Vanessa claims “everything changed after my father’s death” because she is released from the “talons” of Grandmother MacLeod and her “uneasy” feeling about their home but not much does change; Vanessa continues her “desperately anxious” quest “to get away from Manawaka”(152) and now suffers in the new confines of her “grandfather’s house”. Ewen’s escape, takes the respectable MacLeod approach to achieve his escape by enlisting in the military traveling “a long way from home”. Only he suffers the death of his younger brother, Roderick, “killed in the Great War.” and returns home to his “damned” inheritance, declaring, “I haven’t only taken on my father’s house, I’ve taken on everything that goes with it”(142) . Ewen feels burdened to not let “the house go to wrack and ruin” and is forced to accept that “the MacLeods used to have money and now they don’t”(142). Ewen can only take solace in more favourable memories of his time in the military and alludes to a context which 12 year old Vanessa was too young to understand. “It was bad, but it wasn’t all…bad”(140)....
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