The Painted Bird Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Villages

Villages. Much of the horror encountered by the Jewish boy takes place in remote and underdeveloped Eastern European villages. Isolated for centuries, the villages appear almost medieval and lack all modern amenities. Primitive living conditions in these places, the novel suggests, have given rise to a population of genetically similar, hostile, superstitious, and brutal peasants. The peasants’ huts, farms, and workplaces are rough and meager, corresponding to the mean and vicious streaks of their owners. For example, on the barren floor planks of a mill, the jealous owner stamps on the eyes he has gouged out of the face of a man he suspects of having committed adultery with his wife. When lightning hits the barn of a carpenter, he blames the black hair of the boy for the strike and tries to kill him.

Germany’s occupation of the country lies like a plague on the land, which yields little even in good times. Demanding food and trying to hunt down the last Jewish refugees, the Germans treat the inhabitants harshly and add to the fugitive boy’s dread. He must periodically flee from one village to another. One village’s peasants eject him by throwing him in a river, on which he lands on the inflated swim bladder of a giant catfish, which carries him downriver.

All the villages the boy encounters come to resemble one another. His ordeal living among callous people ends only when the Soviet Army occupies the land, inflicting yet more violence on its sullen inhabitants.

Cesspit

Cesspit. Pool of human excrement into which the boy is thrown. While staying in a village in which a Roman...

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The Painted Bird Historical Context

Polish prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp Published by Gale Cengage

World War II
The world experienced a decade of aggression in the 1930s that culminated in World War II. This Second...

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The Painted Bird Literary Style

Point of View
The main character narrates The Painted Bird from his point of view, which enables readers to...

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The Painted Bird Literary Techniques

Kosinski makes extremely skillful use of the boy wanderer as a narrator of his wartime odyssey. His account consists of a series of detached...

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The Painted Bird Compare and Contrast

1926: Joseph Stalin becomes dictator of the Soviet Union. His reign of terror lasts for close to three decades.

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The Painted Bird Topics for Further Study

One of the charges against the book is that it presents Polish peasants as barbarians. Research the culture of Polish villages during the war...

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The Painted Bird Literary Precedents

Besides its association with the fairy tale discussed in the previous section, The Painted Bird can be connected with the picaresque...

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The Painted Bird Related Titles

Notes of the Author on "The Painted Bird" is a short critical essay that Kosinski originally wrote as a letter commenting on...

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The Painted Bird What Do I Read Next?

Kosinski's Steps (1968), a sequel to The Painted Bird, won the National Book Award for fiction. This work...

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The Painted Bird Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Corry, John, "The Most Considerate of Men," in American Spectator, Vol. 24, No. 7, July 1991, pp....

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The Painted Bird Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Everman, Welch D. Jerzy Kosinski: The Literature of Violation. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1991. “The author’s point is that the boy’s experience is not unique; what happened to him also happened to many others and could happen again to anyone.”

Kosinski, Jerzy. Notes of the Author on “The Painted Bird.” 3d ed. New York: Scientia-Factum, 1967. In this pamphlet, Kosinski explains the novel as “fairy tales experienced by the child, rather than told to him.”

Lavers, Norman. Jerzy Kosinski. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Lavers identifies the themes of freedom, revenge,...

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