The Painted Bird Essay, Research Paper
The Painted Bird
The use of art has many functions. It lacks a satisfactory definition and is easier to describe it as a way something is done — the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others –rather than what it is. Jerzy Kosinski s The Painted Bird describes the disasters that befall a six-year-old boy who is separated from his parents and wanders through the primitive Polish-Soviet borderlands during the war. Kosinski fails to mention the boy s name and the names of the towns the boy travels over throughout the text. This enables the reader to assume that this child could have possibly been any unfortunate youngster during the war. Kosinski s writings organize the chaos of the boy s life experiences through form. The use of both organic and conventional form throughout the book draws the reader closer to the horrific encounters the young boy faced on a daily basis.
Using writing as a method of art organizes the chaos of experience through form. Kosinski s novel applies organic form to portray the appalling predicaments the boy encountered during the separation from his family. The use of organic form in the formal pattern offers the reader the what-will-be-next scenario before they proceed through the pages. Kosinski gives the reader a taste of the animalistic characteristics of the towns people the boy confronts during the war. This allows the reader not to be shocked when the peasants the boy faces demonstrated an extraordinary predilection for incest, sodomy, and meaningless violence.
While reading The Painted Bird , the reader gains the impression that religion seemed to be a high priority for the village people. However, Kosinski s use of conventional form to inform his readers that church was a very important part of the
culture in these villages seemed to contradict this portrayal. In the culminating incident of the book, the boy drops a missal while he s helping service Mass and is flung by the angry parishioners into a pot of manure . Emerging from the pit he realizes that he has lost the power of speech. Church goes watched as the young boy was tossed into the manure and no one tried to assist him. A group of bullies pushes the boy, a presumed spy or Jew, below the ice of a frozen pond. A farmer forces the boy to hang by his hands from a rafter, just out of reach of a vicious dog. Also, a miller plucks out the eyeballs of his wife s would be lover. Kosinski wrote in graphic detail on all these terrible incidents that this young boy survived, often leaving the reader to feel as though they were witnessing these events first-hand.
Throughout the text, the reader anticipates the fate of the boy. Will he find a decent villager to take him in? Will he regain the use of his voice? Will this war ever end and will he be reunited with his parents? Although the boy is mentally strong for having endured many horrible reoccurring incidents, the reader feels great compassion for this youngster. As Mahon states, anticipation is tension . While reading The Painted Bird , one will possess great tension and anticipation for this boy.
To fully appreciate Jerzy Kosinski s The Painted Bird as a literary work of art, one should become aware with the events of the Holocaust. Familiarizing oneself with the events that the people of Europe endured during the war, one can construe why many of the villagers acted with such insanity and lack of morals. War is horrible, and will often make people encounter many horrific circumstances. Kosinski paints a severely graphic portrayal of the effects and stresses war places on individuals. The representations are often not pleasant (violence, sadism, and incest).
The Painted Bird dwells into the horrible and revealing reality of war. Jerzy Kosinski s literary masterpiece is a brilliant testimony of mankind s survival power. If the reader perceives the work as art, he will, given the right conditions, experience an emotion or sensation of beauty . Although Kosinski s book is very detailed and offers several disturbing events the young boy encounters, it has a way of grabbing the reader. The reader sympathizes with the loneliness, hurt, and anger the child possesses from the separation from his family and the betrayal of the villagers.
Kosinski, J. The Painted Bird
Grove Press. New York, N.Y. 1965.
Mahon, M. Values in Art or Play it Again Sam.
HUX: 548. July, 1996.
Sturmann, E. Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird.