Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 580
1. Why is Violet referred to as the “Bird Lady”?
2. Why does the narrator describe Joe and Dorcas’ relationship as “one of those deep down, spooky loves”?
3. Why does Dorcas’ aunt Alice refuse to turn Joe over to the police?
4. Compare and contrast Violet with Dorcas.
5. How does Violet respond to the shooting?
6. What are Joe’s feelings about shooting Dorcas?
7. What is Violet’s plan?
8. Describe the atmosphere in Joe and Violet’s apartment.
9. Both Joe and Violet are in the beauty business. Explain.
10. Describe some of the things Harlemites are proud of in their community.
1. Violet is called the “Bird Lady” because she keeps a parrot and lots of other birds in her apartment. She communicates with the birds and her parrot says “I love you.”
2. Joe and Dorcas’ relationship is labeled “spooky” because it was unusual and unnatural. There was more than a 30 year difference in their ages. After Joe shot Dorcas he cried everyday about it and was unable to resume a normal life. To protect him, Dorcas refused to name Joe as the person who shot her. After her death, the love continued and became more intense.
3. Alice Manfred doesn’t want the police involved because the police have traditionally been an enemy of the African-American community. The police are considered as dangerous as the criminals. She doesn’t want them in her house sitting in her chairs. Furthermore, she has heard of Joe’s tears and knows that he will punish himself.
4. Violet is attractive but very dark-skinned. She is 50 years old, has hard edges to her personality, and is starting to act crazy. Violet no longer talks to Joe because she has time only for her birds. Violet is very thin, yet very strong, and Dorcas on the other hand is very light-skinned with long hair. These are two pluses. She is not particularly attractive, but she is 18-years-old. Dorcas is feeling the full impact of her sexuality and is eager for intimacy. It is easy for Dorcas and Joe to share their deepest secrets. Violet is independant, but Dorcas is extremely vulnerable and needs Joe’s protection.
5. Violet responds to the shooting by totally losing her mind. She is angry and wants revenge so she tries to disfigure Dorcas’ face at the funeral.
6. Joe grieves deeply for Dorcas. We assume he is sorry for what he has done because he cries constantly. He doesn’t go to work anymore, nor does he speak. All he does is cry.
7. Once she was thrown out of the funeral, Violet still feels the need to get revenge. She plans to make Joe jealous, but that doesn’t work so she decides to find out all she can about the dead girl.
8. Joe and Violet’s apartment is lifeless. Empty bird cages fill the living room. Tears, anger, and sorrow permeate the rooms like a sickness.
9. Violet is an unlicensed beautician. She does hair in the kitchen of her apartment or when forced to, makes house calls. In addition to his job at the hotel, Joe sells Cleopatra beauty products door to door.
10. In Harlem in the 1920s residents are proud when the A&P supermarket hires its first African-American clerk. Harlemites are also proud of the African-American surgeon visiting Harlem Hospital and the 35 African-American nurses that have graduated from Bellevue Hospital. They flock to the parades in honor of the 369th Regiment and the Universal Negro Improvement Association led by Marcus Garvey.
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