What is the symbolism of birds in The Woman Warrior?    

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Birds in The Woman Warrior are auspicious symbols (opportune; promising success) and they appear in talk-stories that Maxine hears. In "White Tigers" birds are guides who lead the way up a hill, thereby representing courage and rising above circumstances. Birds symbolize good luck when birds painted on Brave Orchid's boat keep her safe from pirates who board the very next boat. They also symbolize fortune and wealth because Brave Orchid's wallet opens up and looks like wings. One seeming contradiction puzzles Maxine. Her Fourth Uncle is killed by Communists while trying to catch birds with which to feed his family. This seems to symbolize that birds become inauspicious when their beauty and independence is violated, even when done for good reason.

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