BIRDY A Novel Essay, Research Paper
I. Type of Book
B.Call Number: Fiction W
C. Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
D.Latest Copyright Date 1978
E. 310 pages
II. Title and AuthorBirdy by William Wharton
III. Setting and Time:This story takes place in the New England area in pre W.W.II times (they get drafted
IV. A.Main Characters and brief description: ?Birdy?-This is his nick name and is what everyone refers to him as in the story. He
loves birds. At first he was fascinated with pigeons and then moved on to canaries by
eighth or ninth grade.
B. Alfonso Columbato- His nick name is Al. He is of Sicilian decent, but was born and
raised in the US. His dad would beat him up as a kid, and his main goal was to get big and
beat up his dad. He was Birdy?s best friend from the time they were little kids until the end
of the book. He is very tough and into girls a lot.
C. Vittorio Columbato- This is Al?s father. Later in the book, it tells of a time when Al
beats him up. He is a ?cheapo? and doesn?t have a very good relationship with his son. His
wife usually ends up trying to stick up for Al.
D. Birdy?s dad- I don?t recall seeing his name anywhere in this book. He and his wife
don?t have very much money. He makes about $800-$900/year as a janitor for the school
his son goes to. Late in the book, he tries to help Birdy take care of his canaries because
Birdy makes more money than he does raising and selling canaries which is about
E. Weiss- This is the psychiatrist in the ?loony bin? where Birdy is being kept
throughout the book. He is pretty smart and knows how to get inside of people?s heads
although he never figured out through the entire book that Birdy was acting like a bird in
the ?loony bin?. He is a bigger man and basically a jerk.
F. Renaldi- This was a man who worked in the ward and helped Al out a lot by not
telling Weiss lots of Birdy?s improvements. At the very end of the book, he helps to break
Birdy out of the mental hospital.
V. A. Beginning (How story starts out) This story begins as Al telling the story. He is telling about some of the good times
he and Birdy have had throughout their childhood in detail basically telling you how he
and Birdy have always been best friends and did a lot of crazy stuff as kids. He is saying all
of this to Birdy because Birdy is in the corner of this loft in his pigeon suit, and Al is trying
to get him to ?come around?. They went on tons of adventures and imitating one of their
favorite comic book heroes. Al goes on telling how he and Birdy got started breeding
pigeons and selling them trying not to let their parents find out for some extra money. Al
gets disinterested and Birdy stays with the birds for the majority of his time and watches
them learning what different signals mean and how he can train them and talk to them. He
successfully does all of this and can even get the pigeons to eat from his lips. His parents
eventually tear down the loft in which they kept the birds. They never found his pigeon
suit. This was what Birdy made out of real pigeon feathers so he could be more like a
pigeon. Birdy?s real dream was to fly. He was obsessed with this. Once he even made
some big wings and tried to jump off of a dump pile of trash over a creek to fly. Before
that, he fell off a big gas tank trying to get pigeons and claimed it was like flying. He never
got hurt from it though. Birdy was so into birds that when he was keeping his canaries, he
started to flap his arms two hours a day so maybe he could flap the wings he made to fly.
He even dreamt about canaries and how he was one, and later he falls in love with a
canary named Perta as a bird. He begins to obsess over these dreams and what happened
in these dreams would happen in real life. In his dream, he mated with Perta, and in real
life, Perta had some fertile eggs she laid. He really fell in love with her. He sang to her and
danced with her and understood what she was saying to him. We learn what Birdy feels in
the book when he tells some of the story. This book alternates between Al being the
narrator and Birdy being the narrator. This helped me out a lot to get both sides of the
story. When Perta dies in the dreams, Birdy starts to lose interest in canaries altogether.
He sells all of the canaries to his dad?s disappointment (remember how much money he
made selling the canaries) because of this.
B. Continue to describe conflict and with whom: Somewhere in the middle of the book, it tells you that Birdy is in a mental hospital and he is acting like a bird. This was when he got wounded and then he started being like a
bird always squatting and even sleeping on one foot against a wall. He even had to be fed.
At this point, we realize that Al is now bringing up more stories from the war and their
childhood to try to make Birdy snap out of this altered state of mind. He never appeared
as if he even heard Al talking to him. Sometimes he would almost look as if he were
paying attention though. Birdy?s mom used to take baseballs and hide them from Birdy
whenever a kid hit a home run over their fence. Birdy always promised that they would be
returned and he spent hours looking around his house for them. Al even had a telegram
sent to Birdy?s mom that maybe if she would send those baseballs Birdy would pop out of
his state of mind as a bird. This still didn?t help any. Birdy?s psychiatrist, Weiss never
figured out that Birdy was trying to act like a bird, and never even knew that was his nick
name. He never saw Birdy much anyways. Al was called to this place by him to help.
Whenever Al talked to Weiss, he would try to keep from telling Weiss much about Birdy.
He thought that maybe he would come around and Weiss would never have to know any
of this. Weiss had a way of getting inside Al?s head and Al was horrified that maybe Weiss
was trying to get Al committed as a ?crazy? to live in the ward too. Al lied to him a lot
about his relationship with his father so he wouldn?t be committed or anything.
C. Conclusion. How problem is solved if it is: At the end of the book, Al brings up some things to Birdy that actually got Birdy out of his squatting position, and Birdy got to where he could feed himself. Al confided all
of these things to Renaldi and he never told Weiss like he was supposed to. Somehow he
understood how Al was feeling. At the very end, it doesn?t really tell you exactly what
happened and how they all (Birdy, Al, and Renaldi) got Birdy out of the mental ward.
They just give you what they made up afterwards. So here?s what they say happened: One
day Al finally got Birdy to talk, and Birdy said he was pretending the whole thing as far as
being a bird just so he could get himself out of the war because it was so horrible over
there and heard everything Al said to him. Renaldi and Al get Weiss to go into the room
with Birdy and they also bring in the baseballs because they told Weiss that the baseballs
really perked Birdy?s attention. They all started throwing the baseballs at Weiss playing a
sort of game of baseball and then locked him into the room. They went up on top of the
hospital on the roof and threw all the baseballs out over the walls of the building. After a
while, Weiss came up on top of the roof and just smiled at them all, and then Al and Birdy
and Weiss all just walked downstairs and right on out of the building with no problems
and went about their normal lives.
VI. Reader’s Opinion of the book: I really enjoyed this book. It was kind of confusing, but once I read the whole thing, I
could understand it fine. I think this book was really good because of all the stories it told
about the kids together, and there were so many things they did, you felt as if you were
right there being their friend the whole time. I wanted to share a lot of these things they
did with you, but that would take too much paper, and it didn?t have much to do with the
problem of getting Birdy out of the hospital. That is the main problem, but most of the
book is centered on showing you how they were so close and why they were so close. It?s
really hard to understand. I know this report seems quite choppy as far as bringing things
up all of a sudden, because all these stories and events all tie together and the book is
really complicated to comprehend unless you read it. I would suggest this to anyone.
VII. Where can this book be located? This book can be located in the school library.