De Bernieres’ book “Birds Without wings” begins in 1900s in a peaceful town at the end of the Ottoman Empire. Iskander the potter, a character in the book, says that “Man is a bird without wings, and a bird is a man without sorrows” (De Bernieres, 145). The title of the book is extracted from this saying. This town is inhabited by Greek and Turkish people; in addition the town is populated by both Muslims and Christians.
Regardless of the fact that these people have different religious beliefs, they live peacefully and they do not allow outside forces to distract the peace. According to Iskandar the villagers “were very much mixed up, and apart from the ranting of a few hotheads whose bellies were filled with raki and the devil (everyone) lived together in sufficient harmony” (De Bernieres, 23).
At some point, this peace dissolves and as a result people turn against each other. Iskander feels that these differences have caused harm especially after the Christians were chased from Eskibahce, he says “without them our life has less variety, and we are forgetting how to look at others and see ourselves” (De Bernieres, 7).This event is characterized by religious differences and killings.
Apart from presenting the inhabitants’ way of life, the novel presents us with information about the Ottoman Empire as well as the formation of the modern Greece and Turkey. The author takes the readers through the events with the aim of enabling them to experience the horrible events such as pointless deaths, sicknesses and diseases. De Bernieres also uses moments of hilarity in his novel perhaps to break the tension that may have built among his readers (De Bernieres, 1-576).
The novel has a complex plot with many characters. The novel lacks a main protagonist since the author does not concentrate on any of his characters for long. The frequent change of focus from one character to another is not a good aspect. First, this can make the novel uninteresting since the reader does not get a chance to identify with the characters well. Focus on each of the characters is minimal since the book has been written from numerous perspectives.
This further makes it hard for the readers to identify themselves well with the characters as should be the case. The role played by each and every character in the novel does not provide sufficient information hence making the narrative shallow. With a small number of characters, it becomes easy for the reader to identify and remember the role played by each and every character when it comes to theme development.
With many characters, the readers may even forget the role played by some characters because one may be confused, this means that the reader has to make reference to previous pages so that he or she can establish who a certain character was and the role that he or she played (DiBattista, 56-60).
Majority of the characters in this novel are infuriating and they are morally corrupt hence little is likeable about them. The media has a strong influence on how people behave and as Karatavuk notes “…..because we cannot fly, we are condemned to do things that do not agree with us” (De Bernieres, 550-551).
Lessons touching on morals are important in any piece of work hence those that do not teach morals may not be the reader’s choice. According to (Dibattista, 55), a writer should ensure that his or her piece of work teaches moral values regardless of the events taking place.
This means that the apart from presenting the evil deeds of the characters, there should be people in the society who are opposed to the vices. Too much focus on one aspect may make the readers to lose interest in the novel. Any piece of art be it music or novels present ideas that relate to the society. This means that there should be undertakers and those who oppose to the undertakings. It is important to note that this aspect is common in many pieces of art since it is one of the qualities that should be prioritized.
Once the readers identify themselves with characters, they suddenly develop an interest to know the fate of each and every character. Sometimes the readers can make predictions on the issue to show their feelings about a certain character. This maintains and increases the readers’ concentration since they have something to confirm at the end of the novel.
It becomes hard for the readers to make any predictions if the characters are many, this is because the main ideas may not be well presented in the book hence the roles of the characters may not be well defined (DiBattista, 65). Following this, the information that has been provided is not enough to discern the traits of the characters.
eople do not just always read books for fun, students may read the novels for academic purposes. This means that they have to analyze the themes and characters from a certain angle. De Bernieres book “Birds Without wings” is not recommendable for academic purposes, rather those reading it may benefit from the history presented although Hegel, a philosopher, said that “the only thing the we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history” (DiBattista, 123).
Woloch (44) is of the view that curriculum developers should be careful when selecting such books since the styles used by the authors determines the extent to which learners comprehend the main ideas in the book. A good book should not also have a complex plot since it becomes hard for the readers to link ideas, this may make them to lose interest in reading the book since they are forced to be critical and creative; this quality that is not inherent in many people.
The ideal number of characters is dependant on the volume of the book but it should be small enough to allow the development of themes. With this, the piece of work gives room to conflicts and some values. The number of characters determines the extent to which the readers get emotionally involved in the story. If there are too many characters in the book, then it becomes hard for the readers to absorb everything hence making it harder for them to decide who to care for.
DiBattista (60-62) compares this with a state where one gets the attention from two or more people; it becomes hard to decide who to be attached to since the degree of attention may seem equal. DiBattista (22) on the other hand suggests that emotional attachment can only be perfect if there are less people involved, more people tend to dissolve the attachment.
The issue of having many characters in any piece of work does not add depth and meaning to the themes (Woloch, 34). The playwright assigns small roles to the characters hence each of these roles is hardly well developed. Novels that have fewer characters tend to assign the characters bigger roles where the main theme is well developed. With fewer characters, the readers’ comprehension is enhanced since it becomes easy to establish why some characters behave in a certain way and the things that they are capable of doing.
Further, instances of confusing one character with another are rare since each of the characters have well defined roles which characterize them. The book has over one hundred short chapters, following this; it is evident that the author does not provide much information on the events. This means that the themes in the story are not well presented since the events do not provide a rich background of information.
De Bernieres book “Birds Without wings” is appropriate for people who read short stories whose events conclude at the end of the every chapter. The mode in which the subplots have been presented may force the readers to carry ideas over to previous pages so that they can link the ideas of the two chapters. The readers may also be forced to identify with the characters once again since they may have concentrated on the previous chapters that they forgot the names and the traits of some characters.
This can be tiring and boring especially for those leaders who read for fun (Woloch, 52), on the other hand, those who read for academic purposes may have a hard time and the process of trying to understand the book may consume more time. Books with less complex plots are interesting particularly to people who are not constant readers. Woloch describes De Bernieres book as “Having weaved subplots from chapter to chapter”
De Bernieres’ book is limiting since not all people can read the book and understand the content. People who are more comfortable reading short books that do not link ideas in the next chapter will love this book. The narrative voice comes out in an unsophisticated manner; one could argue that this has been brought about by the many characters in the story which forces the author to focus less of each of the characters.
Woloch (35) is of the view that one’s concentration depends on the number of items he or she is dealing with, the more the items, the lesser the concentration on individual items. This can be compared to reading books with less or more characters. Readers will concentrate better if they are able to identify with the characters well.
The role played by each and every character in the book is important since each character has a role to play in the overall development of the plot, however, some characters play more important roles than others hence it cannot be assumed that all characters play equal roles; this feature lacks in De Bernieres book.
De Bernieres, Louis. Birds without Wings. Canada: Knopt Canada, 2005.
DiBattista, Maria. Novel Characters: A Genealogy. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
Woloch, Alex. The one vs. the many: minor characters and the space of the protagonist in the novel. New York: Princeton University Press, 2003.