“Birdy” is a story of childhood friendship, war, obsession and mental illness. The novel takes place in a suburb of Philadelphia shortly prior to World War II. It is narrated by Al, an all-American Italian boy turned man, who has been best friends with the protagonist, Birdy, since early childhood. Birdy is a genius obsessed with the flight and breeding patterns of canaries. He possesses an uncanny mechanical aptitude, and he directs his intelligence towards realizing his dream of flying. In “Birdy,” Al describes the increasing pull of this obsession on Birdy throughout puberty into adulthood.
Eventually, both boys enlist in the army. They experience a great amount of stress and tragedy spurred by the war. Perhaps it was this pressure that drives Birdy to a permanent state of mental illness. Birdy actually becomes birdlike, refusing to act as a human. Al is called into reason with his childhood friend; he is expected to bring Birdy back to his normal state of mind. Is Birdy mentally ill or is this an elaborate act designed to excuse him from further duty? Will Al be successful in his attempts to reason with Birdy?
This report prepared by Anna Ellermeyer