Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Painted Bird (novel)
The Painted Bird is a controversial novel by Jerzy Kosinski in which the world is described through the eyes of a young, black haired, black eyed boy who finds himself lost in small towns scattered around Eastern Europe (presumably Poland or Bellorussia) during World War II. The book has been praised for its exemplary depiction of existentialism. There was a large assumption that Kosinski was writing an autobiography, though it was later realized that he was neither the boy in the story nor did he share any experiences with him in his life. It is now widely considered that the events depicted were fictional, and Kosinski did not wander the countryside of Eastern Europe during the war.
The book describes a boy’s encounter with the peasants engaging in all forms of sexual and social deviances such as incest, beastiality, rape, and depicts a huge amount of violence – often at the expense of the child. While the book is said to depict peasantry in a racist fashion, some people advocate that it was not a particular group of people, but all people who inherently are predisposed to cruelty.
The books title is based off an analogy to human life described within the book. A character the boy finds himself in the company of is, by profession, a bird catcher. The boy explains that when the man is particularly upset, or bored, he takes one of his captured birds and paints them several colors. He then watches as the bird flies through the air in search of his fellow flock. When he comes upon them they see him to be an intruder and tear at the bird until it dies: falling down from the sky. This symbolic scene is the crux of the concepts of existentialism.
Some would argue that this novel contributed to the false impressions of the peasants of Eastern Europe. For others, the purpose of this book, from a deontological standpoint was not to show the cruelty of one group of people, but to show the nature of all humanity, and all of existence, to be cruel.
Nevertheless, the book seriously offended Polish farmers family that risked their lifes to save the Kosinski's life during WW2. (See real stories about such a people Markowa). It is widely believed that this fact contributed to Kosinski's decision to commit suicide.
- Kosinski, Jerzy. The Painted Bird. Grove Press: 1995. ISBN 080213422X.
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