In The Shawshank Redemption, what symbol does Brooks' pet bird, Jake, stand for?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jake represents hope in The Shawshank Redemption.

Brooks takes care of Jake as a baby bird.  When we first see him, Jake lives in Brooks' pocket and survives off of remnants of food.  When Andy discovers a worm in his food, Brooks asks for it so he can feed it to Jake. Jake's weak voice represents how something fledgling needs love to strengthen it.  Brooks does not let the cruelty and savagery of prison impact his love for the bird. As a result, Jake's growth symbolizes how people can find hope even in the worst of situations.   

We see Jake mature over the course of the film.  When Andy starts his work in the library, we see that Jake has grown up.  His voice is stronger and louder.  Jake's maturation is a direct result of Brooks's love and devotion. However, when Brooks is released, he must release Jake out into the wild. When he tells Jake that he "cannot take care of him anymore," it symbolizes how hope has to be released and set free.  Brooks recognizes that he has taken Jake to a particular point.  While Brooks is sad to see him go, it is clear that Jake proves how hope is a powerful and "beautiful thing" as Andy would say later on in the film.

Towards the end of the film, Red describes his friendship with Andy in ornithological terms.  He says that Andy was like a beautiful bird that came into his garden for a moment, knowing that he could not stay there forever. In many ways, Jake symbolizes this same idea of hope for Brooks.  He tends to it in the harsh reality of prison, but he also knows that hope cannot remain locked up.  It must be spread out into the world for others to experience.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team