Birdy – Psychological Aspects Of Characters Essay, Research Paper
“Only if we look deeply into ourselves can we discover who we really are?.
Birdy? at first may seem to be a book characterized by its shallowness and simplicity, nevertheless it is within a plain plot and structure that the real values are hidden. Wharton?s story gives us the insight into human qualities which are subjected to only one objective: life itself. The book carries the reader into a completely different reality showing how a boy creates and lives in his own world. Psychological portrait of Birdy, which the author presented, has a symbolic meaning. Most importantly, it shows that the capacity to perceive lies within the individual.
One of the psychological aspects that Wharton profoundly deals with is the outline of two different characters: Al and Birdy. Those characters represent diverse qualities, nevertheless they seem to overlap to a certain extent. Al has a very rational view of life. His realistic approach enables him to step firmly through life, catch every opportunity of it. However, when he meets Birdy, he realizes that it wasn?t true at all, and all that time he was simply walking with his eyes half-opened. Realism is what Birdy?s philosophy of life is lacking, therefore that is why their characters seem to complement one another. A lasting relationship is created, on the basis of which the reader has the opportunity to observe what psychological changes they undergo.
Al wants to show Birdy the world that he has not discovered yet. On the other hand, Birdy tries to unveil the beauty of different reality that he himself becomes fascinated with.
Each of us has a nature of its own, unique and exceptional. Wharton stresses it throughout the story. He skilfully crafts a psychologically intricate character ? Birdy, who sees the world in different colours and shades. He explores the world through a completely different reality. Al?s friendship on the one hand gives him a closer insight into the real world, on the other one intensifies his obsession. What actually Wharton shows is how far can it really go. Birdy doesn?t have control over his thoughts, he seems to be helpless. It is his desires that dictate all his actions. They become a source for his eccentric behaviour. Passion to birds is so overwhelming that Birdy becomes unaware of the very facts of the real life. The real world is a maze where he hopelessly seeks for exit. That is mainly why he escapes to a little haven of refuge from the world, where he can be sure of being admired when he is not admirable, and praised he is not praiseworthy. Birdy creates a world of his own, a place were he could feel safe, proud and needed. He looks for some understanding among others, but it is only in the world created by him that he can find his essence of life. A dream in which he becomes a bird has even a sexual connotation. It constantly comes back at night, and becomes so strong that he looses the ability to distinguish between the real, and the imaginary world: ?The dream is as real to me now as my waking life. I don?t know where one begins and the other ends.?
However, this different reality that Birdy enters becomes a borderline for Al. At the beginning of their friendship Birdy tries to balance between those two diverse worlds, nonetheless his passion turns out to be stronger. Al and Birdy create a lifelong affection – friendship. It becomes the greatest sweetener of their lives. Only few do discover what it means to be raised to the highest pitch of enjoyment of life. His faith in the possibility of flying helps him to ?survive? his unhappy childhood. Birdy lives in the mind, in ideas, in fragments. His passion gave him air to breathe, otherwise he would suffocate. He does not give up and that makes him the winner.
For Al, Birdy?s eccentric behaviour is – as he states it ?simply going too far?. He is afraid of it, as the world that Birdy enters is an unknown quantity for Al. He sees that his friend?s passion becomes uncontrollable and therefore Birdy?s behaviour is more and more unpredictable. Al starts to understand that he cannot do much about the situation, and that the whole ?weirdness? is beyond his comprehension. That is mainly why he turns his back at Birdy, leaving him alone. Birdy is not capable of finding his own place in the surrounding reality and in the eyes of others he is perceived as insane.
?There is no such an absurd thing that a man wouldn?t do just to give life a purpose.?(Wharton)
When after war Al comes back to help Birdy recover, he realizes the very true facts of life. His behaviour in the hospital for mentally disabled reveals his affectionate nature. Al understands that Birdy became a part of his life. However, the situation that he has to cope with terrifies him. On the way to Birdy?s mental recovery, which does not seem to have positive results, Al realizes that the world they are living in is full of ugliness, danger and depravity. One therefore should build a world of his own, where all these problems do not simply exist. Wharton, when asked about the purpose of psychological intricateness of some of his characters including Birdy said that it is “because there is some lie in this world that I want to expose”. Wharton through psychological portraits of characters shows the duality of worlds, a clash between the mimetic world and the one created by friendship and passion. Fictional world crafted by author suggests another notion of sanity in a world that is manifestly insane. Birdy creates his own philosophy of life ? a weapon against the reality.
?It takes twenty years or more of peace to make a man; it takes only twenty seconds of war to destroy him.? (Baudouin I)
Birdy is a mentally fragile character. He is capable of seeing things other people consider unimportant and meaningless. Those little things give him hope and something he can believe in. His whole life revolves around them. Nevertheless, this is completely changed by war. It puts an end to his delicate psyche which is crushed under the burden of what he has to go through. All the suffering, pain, fear and the feeling of uncertainty destroy his belief in the world he is living in. That is why Birdy escapes into his own reality, however that is where he gets lost. His contact with the real world is disabled, war brainwashes him into unreasonable way of perceiving the reality.
Birdy?s approach to life reveals general truths of this world. It shows that if we want to find the right way in our lives we can only do it by looking for it in ourselves. The reader at some point may wonder about the psychological aspects of human?s behaviour, asking such questions as: What is really needed to preserve one?s happiness, to be really free? Is it actually possible? Can we make us believe that everything has a purpose? Al and Birdy have objectives for their lives but they are not capable of adjusting to social stereotypes. They constantly run away from them, searching for something new.
Wharton?s technique of portraying the fictional world is a very specific one. The reader gets to know all the events from different perspectives. The world is perceived through Al?s and Birdy?s eyes. The details of the boys? past life are shown by means of retrospection. Wharton’s writing is often dark and incorporates surrealistic elements sharply contrasted against visceral reality. In his mind, Birdy lives as a bird, and the description of that life has a dreamy, unreal quality. Through his friend Al, we see the reality of his life: the grim veteran’s hospital, the uncaring staff, Birdy’s poor physical state. The differing elements fit together to form a whole life, even if it is a life given over to madness. The story shows that in the search of freedom one has to go through real and metaphysical maze. It is the only thing Birdy needs to fly thought the depths of life. He proves that the real art of life is to make the impossible, possible.
In many ways, Wharton?s view of the world is true. By a characteristic way of presenting the fictional world, the reader has the opportunity to acquaint with the vast psychological portraits of characters. We get to know not only bare facts, but also inner thoughts and the emotions that accompany them. That is why the reader can perceive the fictional world through different perspectives and identify with the characters. Wharton by means of plain and straightforward language expresses deeper thoughts. Characters? actions become symbolic and can be interpreted on different grounds.