The painted bird was published in 1965. It was authored by Jerzy Kosinski. It offers a vivid description of the Second World War as witnessed by a young boy. The boy wanders about a small village in an unspecified country in Eastern Europe. The novel may deem to be non-fictional as it relies on a true account of events that took place during the Holocaust and the Second World War. The book offers a clear account of mixed reactions that war refugees encounter in their host countries. They are likely to encounter varied reactions where some people in the community may be kind to them and some maybe extremely brutal to them.
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The development of the plot points at parents of a six-year-old boy fearing for Nazi reprisals. The parents send the young boy to a distant village. The parents end up losing touch with the man who had placed the young boy in the village. The foster mother for the young boy passes away and the leaves the boy to survive on his own. The young boy travels through the villages. He is either a Jew or Roma due to his dark hair and olive skin. The boy encounters brutality from the ignorant peasants that he meets in his travels.
The actions of members of a community that the young boy interacts with depict hope with humanity while to a large extent show the dark side of humanity. Notably, when the young boy finds accommodation in the hurt of Marta, such is a kind gesture of humanity. Despite being disabled and superstitious, the lady takes the young boy in. The development of the plot depicts how people can be brutal. Following the death of Marta, the young boy is hunted by villagers who want to kill him. However, Olga saves him from the wrath of the villagers. The actions of the villagers where they toss the young child to the river and he gets carried downstream show brutality on the side of the villagers. The young boy ends up living with a miller and his wife. It is during such time that the young fellow witness’s scene of unspeakable brutality. Such a case is when the miller gouges out eyes of young farmhand with a spoon (Franklin, pg.23). The motivation for such brutality was mere jealousy. The young bot escapes and ends up living with a carpenter and his wife. The aspect that the couple was willing to live with the boy depicts humanity from their side. However, the couple is afraid that his black hair would attract lightning to their firm. Whenever storms arise, the young boy is chained to a heavy harness in the firms. The carpenter further threatens to kill the young boy. Such actions depict the dark side of humanity. It was a great gesture that the couple had accepted to live with the boy. However, making his life uneasy shows the dark side of humanity (Finkelstein, Pg. 121). The development of events in the plot show unrelenting terror. Such is accompanied by phases where humanity is depicted.
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The events in the plot of the novel took place during the Second World War possibly in the 1940s. They happened simultaneously with the Holocaust where most Jews were persecuted in the community. Most of the events in the plot of the novel may have taken place in Eastern Europe. Poland may be one of the countries where most of the events in the novel took place. It was during the period of Second World War where there were utmost mixed reactions towards people from different races. Notably, hatred and brutality was evident in the community in number of people who lost their property and lives across the globe.
It would be of the great essence for the young adults in the community to read the novel. It offers a rich historical insight on some of the notable events which took place during the Second World War. The youth will learn the brutality associated with the period. It will possibly be an eye-opener to the current generation on the need to avert conflicts in the community. They will appreciate the essence of peaceful conflict resolution mechanism in the community. Conflict is a common occurrence in the community (Hart, Pg.12). The literature makes clear the essence of peace and stability in a country. In the cases where conflicts escalate to levels where they cannot be managed. It is the children, women and other vulnerable groups in the community that stand to suffer.
The novel is a masterpiece and deserves the tag classic. It offers a rich insight into the history of the Second World War. It is a piece of literature that can excite the young and the old in the community. The novel is classical due to its characterization, stylistics devices and how well the themes are developed.
The primary characters in the novel play an essential role in enhancing understanding of how people react to war refugees with mixed reactions. The protagonist in the play is the young boy. He is a war refugee sent to the countryside by his parents. His loses up his first contact in the village. Life becomes unbearable for him. He ends up facing brutality from those who offer to accommodate him. Minor character in the novel includes Marta. She is a crippled old woman full of superstitions. The other character is Olga. She saves the young boy from the wrath of the villagers. Other character includes a blacksmith, a carpenter, Ewka, and Garbos who was the cruelest man to have hosted the boy. The characters show how humanity may have failed to embrace and care for the war refugees in the community. However, there were shreds of kindness among some of the characters that hosted the boy.
The primary theme in the novel is coming of age. Notably, after the war begins, the young boy is separated from his parents. He spends a great time trying to survive the brutality in the various villages he transverses. He gains vital lesson regarding human nature in general where a man can be a darling at times and could easily become unnecessarily brutal over trivial issues. The human condition can be best understood in the times of tribulations such as war.
The theme of change and transformation is well developed in the novel. The boy undergoes a transformation in line with his experiences. The most significant change that takes place in the boy’s life is the aspect that he is separated from a comfortable life with his parents and ends up encountering brutality in the village (Keegan, Pg. 26). The constant threats of death push the boy to develop the necessary survival skills. Such is a great transformation in the boy. It emerges that our interactions with the members of the community may culminate to changes in our lives especially in the periods of war.
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The theme of alienation and loneliness is well developed in the events in the novel. The theme emanates from how different members of the community treat the victims of war. The boy learns to cope with alienation and loneliness after separation from his parents. Notably, the boy creates a strong bond with Marta. However, it did not last for long as she passes away due to natural causes. The boy is left in great loneliness. He finds new hosts. However, he does not stay for long with his new hosts. In most of the cases, he ends up parting ways and is alienated from the host. Such yields to loneliness before he finds his next host.
The theme of strength and weakness is evident in the ability of the boy to withstand the harsh surroundings. His strong character is revealed through his ability to adapt to the harsh environment. He learns to fend for himself. In the cases where he cannot turn a villager to an ally, he learns to avoid him or her. The boy learns to fend for himself “I stopped blaming others; the fault was mine alone, I thought. I had been too stupid to find the governing principle of the world of people, animals, and events. But now there was order in the human world, and justice too. One had only to recite prayers, concentrating on the ones carrying the greatest number of days of indulgence.” (Kosinski, Pg. 124)
The major style utilized in the development of the novel is symbolism. Symbolism assists in the understanding of how people in the community can be brutal and endearing during the times of war. Human nature is depicted to vary significantly during the times of war. The title is symbolic of a ritual practiced by Lekh, who was one of the villagers, with whom the boy lived in the community. Notably, “become possessed by a silent rage. He would stare solemnly at the birds in the cages, mumbling something to himself. Finally, after prolonged scrutiny, he would choose the strongest bird, tie it to his wrist, and prepare stinking paints of different colors which he mixed together from the most varied components. When the colors satisfied him, Lekh would turn the bird over and paint its wings, head, and breast in rainbow hues until it became more dappled and vivid than a bouquet of wildflowers.” (Kosinski, Pg. 65). The cruel treatment of the birds is metaphorical of the experiences of the boy in the community. He is thrown out by fellow human beings due to his dark eyes, complexion, and hair which is different from that of the villagers. Such makes the villagers consider the boy an outsider.
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- Franklin, Ruth. A thousand darknesses: Lies and truth in Holocaust fiction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011.
- Finkelstein, Norman. “The Holocaust Industry.” Index on Censorship 29.2 (2000): 120-130.
- Hart, BH Liddell. A History of the Second World War. Pan Macmillan, 2015.
- Keegan, John. The second world war. Random House, 2011.
- Kosinski, Jerzy. The painted bird. Grove Press, 1976.
- Nin, Anaïs. The novel of the future. Swallow Press, 2014.