A Bird In The House

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2002

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THE RELENTLESS STRUGGLE- In A Bird in the House, Margaret Laurence develops many patterns common throughout her collection of short stories. Among these themes is the passing of character traits from one generation to another. Many of the characters develop characteristics demonstrated by their predecessors. For example, Piquette inherits traits from her family, Ewan from his father and Vanessa from her grandfather.

Whether Piquette Tonnerre chooses to be a product of her environment or not, her family has a strong influence on her character as society’s scapegoat disallows her to attain any other identity. One inheritance is her fowl mouth. Expected to care for her father, Piquette’s education is “sporadic and her interest in school-work negligible”. This leaves Piquette to learn broken English from the Tonnerres which is “full of obscenities”. Evident early in life at the age of fourteen, Piquette tells Vanessa she “doesn’t know what the hell [she is] talking about… by Jesus”.

Years later Piquette refers to the women of Manawaka as “old bitches an’ biddies”. Appearing to be trapped on “the wrong side of town” as a “dead loss” “half-breed”, Piquette attempts to escape her circumstances. She travels from Saskatoon to Winnipeg for years only coming back to Manawaka to marry a white man. Referring to her fiancé’s name as “classy”, Piquette speaks with an anticipation of being happy and successful, proving society wrong. Her marriage proves to be no better than that of her parents. As a single mother of two infants, Piquette is forced to return to the same sheds she grew up in. Piquette’s grandfather, Jules Tonnerre, had built the sheds in Manawaka to live in temporarily many years ago. He was unable to escape his impoverish life just as Piquette is trapped in hers. The Tonnerres would often “get mixed up...