How can we interpret the bird imagery used in "The Girl Who Fell from the Sky"?

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zzzmegzzz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Birds are found throughout the text of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, written by Heidi W. Durrow in 2010. The author makes use of bird imagery and metaphors to describe the juxtaposition and travel between different worlds that the protagonist Rachel finds herself in. Birds often symbolize freedom and escape; they can fly away at any moment. Birds in many ways symbolize the hopes and dreams of the young protagonist Rachel.

Where birds can fly, Rachel finds herself stuck between two worlds. But she finds hope in the travel between spaces. Rachel is the only survivor in a tragic accident at the age of eleven where her mother and two siblings fell from the top of their Chicago apartment. Rachel is in some ways the bird that escapes her own death. Jamie, a neighbor, sees the family falling from his window and mistakes them for birds at first.

“This, of course, is precisely what Durrow has done in this powerful book: taken sadness and turned it into a beautiful song.” (McAlpin 2010)

Rachel is bi-racial. She lives between whiteness and blackness. The story is dealing with complex issues of identity and grief. Birds provide a metaphor of hope and escape in the face of trauma and sadness. 

Durrow, H.W. (2010). The girl who fell from the sky: A novel. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

McAlpin, H. (2010, February 19). The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. Retrieved January 22, 2016 from


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The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

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