The Bean Trees

What did the bird that flew into the house symbolize?


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Most often, birds are metaphorically associated with Turtle, the abandoned child with strong survival instincts. As Turtle’s life changes, so do the birds that symbolize her. Taylor makes her first sound, a quiet laugh, when the car she is in stops to allow a mother quail and her babies to pass. Turtle is beginning to feel safe in the small family composed of herself and Taylor, and so the birds that elicit a happy sound from her are a mother quail and her chicks. Later, Taylor takes Turtle to the doctor and discovers the gravity of the abuse Turtle has suffered. As she makes this discovery, she sees a bird outside the doctor’s window. The bird has made its nest in a cactus. Like the bird in the cactus, Turtle’s life persists in spite of her painful surroundings. After Turtle encounters the prowler, a sparrow gets caught in Lou Ann’s house, and the bird’s fear suggests Turtle’s own fright and confusion. The sparrow’s survival suggests that Turtle will survive.