Daphne du Mauier – Birds and Other Stories



I began this book never having read any Daphne du Maurier and finished it on the brink of being a fan girl. I found her writing very intelligent and the plots intricate. I also felt she didn’t patronise the reader, she had impressive metaphors in there, ‘The Apple Tree’ being a big one but never felt the need to tell the reader that it was his wife.

I think I would like to talk about this metaphor more. The narrator often flashes back to when his wife, Midge, was alive. He tries to present a woman so dissatisfied with life that the reader would struggle to like but I found that it worked in the other way and made you dislike the narrator. He mentioned that one of her criticisms was that he resented her and he almost mocks her for it saying she always did jobs that never needed to be done. However the way he treats others in this story makes you dislike him and realise his wife had a point, he does just treat people exactly as he wishes. I wonder if this could be read as a cautionary tale, there is certainly some elements of that in there. The wife certainly wants to get her revenge, and although he feel she can escape from her and does not miss her when she is dead it shows that he does have to answer to his actions eventually.

The metaphor of a tree really interested me, the idea that this tree was born when his wife died. It almost suggests that not only was the man freed when his wife died but likewise his wife was freed from him when she died. Before her death she failed to say anything to him that would make any difference and it is only in death that she can have an effect on him. It’s almost in her death she loses all restraint. I love how the tree is personified, it is almost as though she is hidden in the tree but in the final paragraph she emerges and it is no longer the actions of the tree but of a bitter woman. Although it never says that he dies you definitely get a sense of the tree’s triumph and by the end of the tale the reader is not so concerned for his welfare.

I also loved the last story ‘The Old Man’, it was interesting how the narrator said that they didn’t speak the same language, making the reader believe that they were just of a different people, however the twist comes at the end. It begins with the suggestion that the tale will be sinister but then presents a morbid view on nature and reality. In a way it is sinister but not necessarily in the way you anticipate. It definitely presents the idea of survival of the fittest.

I think in this collection a major theme appears to be concerned with human mortality and the cruellest characteristics of nature. It also presents the idea of what happens when nature, or humans, decide to turn against something. It shows how when this decision is made nothing fruitful will come about.  I think it definitely shows the darker and uglier side to human nature and the pastoral idyll.


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