The Birds Questions and Answers
by Daphne Du Maurier

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In the short story "The Birds," what do the silent radio and the burning cigarette symbolize? 

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The silent radio and the burning cigarette can also be interpreted as symbols of man's struggle to survive. The silent radio, for example, is a stark reminder that in the fight against the birds, man is alone and can only depend on himself. This is also reinforced by Nat's burning cigarette: it reminds him that he did not get more cigarettes when he went out for supplies and therefore illustrates that man is ultimately dependent on himself to obtain the things he needs, not on others.

Moreover, by using the cigarette and the radio as symbols, Du Maurier is suggesting that man cannot rely on modern inventions for self-preservation. As we see through Nat, protection against the birds comes from nature: the wood that he uses to barricade the windows and the changing of the tide, which lures the birds away. In short, protection does not come from cigarettes or radios.  

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vnessawong21 | Student

In "The Birds" the silent radio and the burning cigarette both symbolize the fall of humanity. The radio has gone silent because the birds have broken into the radio tower and killed everyone there, symbolically representing how the whole world seems to have gone silent because of the birds. Likewise, if there were people around, a cigarette would not be left to burn; it would either be smoked or stamped out. A burning cigarette symbolizes the lack of people around because they have all been presumably killed by the birds. 

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