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What do the birds in "A Jury of Her Peers" and "The Story of an Hour" represent or...

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bikashsunar | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 26, 2011 at 12:21 PM via web

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What do the birds in "A Jury of Her Peers" and "The Story of an Hour" represent or suggest?

 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 26, 2011 at 10:08 PM (Answer #1)

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Birds are used in both of these texts to represent and stand for freedom and joy as experienced by women in an otherwise harsh patriarchal world where there is little opportunity for them to experience such liberty. Clearly, the dead canary that is found in "A Jury of Her Peers" has much greater significance than the birds that are described as "twittering in the eaves" in "The Story of an Hour," but let us pay attention to how these birds fit in to an overall impression of liberty that Mrs. Mallard experiences in this story:

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

Note how the sparrows form part of the overall image of "new spring life," which of course foreshadows the "new life" that Mrs. Mallard herself will enjoy, albeit briefly, now that she is single and no longer has her husband to oppress her.

In "A Jury of Her Peers," the bird is again explicitly related to the position of Minnie Wright. Note how Mrs. Hale relates the canary to Mrs. Wright:

"No, Wright wouldn't like the bird," she said after that--"a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that too."

Thus we can see how the canary, a bird who sings, and cruelly had its neck broken, symbolises the way in which Minnie Wright, who is so fondly remembered as Minnie Foster with a "white dress and blue ribbons" and used to sing in the choir, slowly had all of the life choked out of her by John Wright. Both were metaphorically choked by the same man.

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