Provide examples of bird imagery seen in the play "The Rose Tattoo" and explain their significance.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The gaudy parrot in Serafina’s cottage and the bird that the children are looking at when Act One opens are examples of bird imagery.

In the Author’s Production Notes at the beginning of the play, Williams establishes the Sicilian setting.  One of these is a bird in an “interior that is as colorful as a booth in a carnival.”  This is very important to setting the mood, and the parrot is more than just scenery.

There are many religious articles and pictures of ruby and gilt, the brass cage of a gaudy parrot, a large bowl of goldfish, cut glass decanters and vases, rose-patterned wallpaper and a rose-colored carpet… (Author’s Production Notes)

Everything in the room is bright.  The parrot is part of that brightness.  It is over the top, tropical, and a symbol of wealth.  Notice that there is also a reference to a singing bird in the “Anabasis” quote that opens the play.

In Act One, Bruno, Salvatore, and Vivi are all looking at something, described as “a bird or a plane passing over” when they are called in (Act 1, Scene 1).

Birds represent beauty and freedom.  The children looking at the bird when the play begins is no accident, nor is the gaudy parrot in its gold cage in the stage dressing.  When Alvaro sees the bird and says, “Rondinella felice”(happy robin), he is really commenting on Serafina’s desire to be free.  The image of a “gilded cage” like the golden parrot cage is almost a cliché, especially with a parrot, which can be symbolic of a woman who feels like she is not in control of her own life.  Serafina has spent most of her life surrounded by beauty and blinded by it, isolating herself from reality. This is why at the beginning of the play the children are staring at the bird, and the audience has already seen the gaudy, colorful, passionate room—and the gilded cage.

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The Rose Tattoo

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