Characteristics in the opening of ‘Birdsong’

The opening of the novel ‘Birdsong’ is filled with characteristics of Literature movements. The novel shows elements from both Romanticism and also Gothic. 


Throughout the opening of ‘Birdsong’ characteristics of Romanticism can be found. During the period of which Romanticism was at its peak folk law played a prominent part in the movement. This was where by which people were beginning to listen to the music and poetry not just of those who studied and were professional at the art but those of ordinary people (folk). This was all part of the bigger picture of those of a lower classer or lower profession beginning to break social normality and speak out.. This characteristic can be found in the first section of ‘Birdsong’ through Azaire’s factory and its workers, particularly when they decide to strike: “I ask you at least to sign this declaration of support for your fellow-workers” It is this idea of the lower classes speaking out that complies with the characteristics of Romanticism. 

Another characteristic of Romanticism that can be found in ‘Birdsong’ is the level of Nationalism that can be seen in the novel. It is the idea of patriotic feelings that can be seen through individual characters or in the language that convey to the reader a sense of Nationalism. French Nationalism can be seen in the opening of the novel, in the language used to describe the city of Amiens. It is depicted as a picturesque,  pre-industrialization place: ‘On the damp grass were chestnut trees, lilac and willows’ It is with this use of language that the reader can feel a sense of nationalism, which can also be seen through Azaire’s factory and the way in which he manages it particularly in his meeting with Meyraux: “The government want us to rationalize our operations, to try to bring more of them under one roof” French Nationalism can be seen by the reader here and Azaire strives to make more of a profit by cutting the wages of his employees and by doing this making France’s economy greater. 


It is not only characteristics of Romanticism that can be found in the novel. It also shows aspects of a Gothic novel through its descriptions of buildings and its portrayal of certain characters:

The Gothic movement is one that took affect on many areas, including literature and architecture. Gothic architecture is something that is described within the novel, most prominently in the description if the Azaire household. It is with the ‘unexpected spaces’ and the ‘red creeper that had made its way up to the roof’ that convey to the reader the image that Azaire’s house is one of Gothic architecture. 

Along with Gothic architecture the novel also features many of the characteristics commonly found in a Gothic novel. A characteristic of a Gothic novel is one where by which a dwarf changes shape, this can be seen through the character of Lisette Azaire. She many not change hugely physical however it is psychologically that she seems to change shape. This can be seen when the Azaire family and Stephen take a fishing trip and Lisette attempts to seduce Stephen: ‘I’m a woman – at least almost a woman. My body is a woman’s  body, not a child’s’ It is through her attempts of seducing Stephen that it is made clear to the reader the Lisette is no longer as innocent as she first appears, our perception of her changes which then links to the characteristic of a Gothic novel. 

Another characteristic of a Gothic novel that can be seen in ‘Birdsong’ is the mental and physical imprisonment that some characters face. This can be seen in the Isabelle’s feminism views that are trapped within her marriage to Azaire. Isabelle is depicted as being a modern feminist ‘Isabelle felt herself grow, and she met no resistance’  however her latent feminism is trapped when she marries Azaire and she is under his physical imprisonment as well as his mental. 


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