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“The birds”
by Daphne du Maurier
Interactive Reading Guide
SOL Objectives:
9.3a Identify format, text structure, and main idea
9.3c Use literary terms in describing and analyzing selections.
9.3d Explain the relationships between and among elements of literature: characters, plot, setting,
tone, point of view, and theme.
9.3f Describe the use of images and sounds to elicit the reader’s emotions.
9.4c Synthesize information from sources and apply it in written and oral presentations.
9.6 Develop narrative, expository, and informational writings to inform, explain, analyze, or
Developing Vocabulary
1. disposition (dis΄pə·zish΄ən) n. a person’s nature or temperament; a person’s usual mood
Myra has a pleasant disposition.
2. clamor (klam΄ər) n. a loud outcry; an uproar. (This word was borrowed from a Latin verb
meaing “to cry out.”)
Over the walls of the castle, the king heard the clamor of his angry people demanding
3. misgiving (mis·giv΄iŋ) n. a feeling of doubt, fear, or distrust; qualm. (This word is often used
in the plural, misgivings.)
Toni did not have a single misgiving about the wisdom of her choice.
4. crested (kres΄tid) adj. having a plume or other decoration on one’s head; (on a bird) having
an ornamental tuft on the head. (This word is based on the noun crest, which can also mean “the
highest point.”)
The colorful plumage of the crested birds of paradise makes them one of the most
beautiful types of birds in the world.
5. trough (trôf) n. a long, narrow container or low place. (This word is probably derived from a
Greek word meaning “hollowed wooden object.”)
The surfer soon capsized when she hit the trough of the waves.
* trough is the opposite of crest (see the note about crest in the definition for crested)
6. jostling (jäs΄’liŋ) n. rough bumping; coming in close contact with
The jostling of the crowd entering the stadium caused me to drop my ticket.
7. larder (lär΄dər) n. a pantry or other place where food is stored. (This word is related to the
Latin word for lard and probably originally referred to a place where bacon was stored.)
The hungry orphan could hardly believe the abundance of the couple’s larder.
8. furtively (fur΄tiv·lē) adv. secretly; sneakily. (This word is based on the Latin word fur, which
means “thief.”)
Looking furtively around the corner, Don sneaked past the guard and into the corridor.
9. ruthless (rōōth΄lis) adj. without pity; cruel
When it comes to video games, Christine is a ruthless competitor.
Continue to the next page for the vocabulary assignment.
Developing Vocabulary (cont.)
Make flashcards for the vocabulary words. Write the word, definition, and sentence on the lined
side. Look at the pictures below. Find the one that matches each word and glue it on the blank
side of the card.
Explaining How Setting Functions in a Story
Setting is the time and place of a story. Setting has several different functions in a story:
It can contribute to a story’s emotional effect. The mood created by the setting can
influence the way the reader responds to the story.
It can provide the conflict in a story. Characters’ problems can be related to the location
or the time.
It can be used to reveal character. How a character acts and speaks in a specific setting
can help the reader understand his or her personality.
Read pp. 33-35 (stop at “…opened the back door.”). Complete the table about the setting of
“The Birds.” Look for specific details from the story about the setting.
Questions to Ask About Setting
1. What is the setting?
Historical period?
Country or locale?
Season of the year?
Other details that establish a sense of
2. Are the characters in conflict with
their setting?
What do the characters want?
Does the setting keep them from
getting it?
3. What does the setting tell us about
the characters?
What feelings or attitudes do the
characters reveal toward the setting?
Fear? Pleasure? Challenge? Dislike?
Respect? Other feelings?
4. How would you describe the
atmosphere or mood created by the
setting? Is it:
Gloomy? Cheerful? Mysterious?
Threatening? Other moods?
Supporting Details from the Story
What’s Gonna Happen, What’s Gonna Happen??:
Creating Suspense
Suspense is the uncertainty or anxiety we feel about what is going to happen
next in a story. Suspense builds as the reader approaches the climax of a
Foreshadowing is the main vehicle for creating suspense. Foreshadowing is the use of clues to
hint at events that will occur later in the plot.
The reader can identify foreshadowing by looking for:
Visual Imagery: There are certain images we always associate with suspense:
dark figures, old houses, sharp objects, clouds, rain (thunder, lightning), shadows,
mysterious characters, etc. They usually foreshadow ominous events.
Sounds: Tapping at the window, knocking on the door, the whistling of the wind,
a creaking floor… Repetitive sounds and noises coming from unseen sources
probably mean something ominous will happen.
Color: Objects are usually dark, gray, or even black. Any sort of darkness or lack
of light foreshadows ominous events.
Sudden Changes: Certain events begin to disturb the normalcy of the characters’
lives. Changes that are especially unusual or sudden signal portentous events.
Practice: Identifying Suspense
Think about any suspenseful movies or television shows you have seen. Movies and television
use suspense to keep viewers engaged in the story and to help them share in the characters’
experiences. In the table below, list three (3) movies or television shows that use suspense. List
one example of suspense for each one, and tell what you thought might happen. In the last
column, explain how the suspense was actually resolved.
Name of Movie/TV Show
Example of Suspense
How Suspense Was Resolved
Read pp. 36-40 (stop at “…on some other mission.”).
Reread the following passages from the story carefully. Pay attention to the suspense created by the imagery, sounds, colors, and
sudden changes. Identify the parts of the passage that are suspenseful and/or foreshadow. Copy the words and phrases into the
appropriate column.
1. “The sky was hard and
leaden, and the brown
hills that had gleamed in
the sun the day before
looked dark and bare.
The east wind, like a
razor, stripped the trees,
and the leaves, crackling
and dry, shivered and
scattered with the wind’s
blast…Black winter had
descended in a single
night.” (p. 35-36)
2. “What he had thought
at first to be the white
caps of the waves were
gulls. Hundreds,
thousands, tens of
thousands…They rose
and fell in the trough of
the seas, heads to the
wind…They stretched as
far as the eye could reach,
in close formation, line
upon line.” (p. 38)
:: Creating Suspense Through Foreshadowing ::
Visual Imagery
Sudden Change
Visual Imagery
3. “ ‘The birds settled on
rooftops, on window
ledges, and on
chimneys…The sight has
been so unusual that
traffic came to a standstill
in the thoroughfares,
work was abandoned in
shops and offices, and the
streets and pavements
were crowded with
people standing about to
watch the birds.” (p. 39)
4. “There had been no
sun all day, and now, at
barely three o’clock, a
kind of darkness had
already come, the sky
sullen, heavy, colorless
like salt. He could hear
the vicious sea drumming
on the rocks…The gulls
had risen. They were
circling…It was the gulls
that made the darkening
of the sky. And they were
silent. They made not a
sound.” (p. 40)
Sudden Change
Based on the clues from these passages, make a prediction about why you think the birds’ behavior has changed:
Understanding Nat Hocken: Characterization
Characterization is the process of revealing the personality of a character. A writer can do this
Letting us “hear” the character speak.
Describing how the character looks and dresses.
Letting us “listen” to the character’s inner thoughts and feelings.
Revealing what other people think or say about the character.
Showing us what the character does—how he/she acts.
Telling us directly what the character’s personality is like.
Indirect characterization requires the reader to make a judgment about the character based on the
evidence in the story.
Example: In “The Most Dangerous Game,” we know Rainsford is an educated man
because he has written books on hunting. Only an educated person could write a book on
hunting snow leopards.
On the other hand, the reader does not have to make any kind of judgment because the author
tells us directly the personality traits of the character.
Example: Ivan is a minor character in “The Most Dangerous Game,” but the author gives
us specific details about his appearance: he has a black beard, he is gigantic, and he is
Characters can also be classified as static (does not change much in the course of the story)
or dynamic (experiences major changes as a result of the events).
Static characters experience little personality change in a story. General Zaroff is a static
character; up to the end of the story, he is always sly, boastful, and audacious.
Rainsford would be an example of a dynamic character. His opinion about the feelings of
hunted animals undergoes a complete change by the end of the story because he understands
what it is like to be hunted.
Characters can also be classified as flat (having only a few traits) or round (having many
traits, more like a real person).
General Zaroff and Rainsford are examples of round characters. They have the personality
traits that real people can have. They can be considered “three-dimensional” people.
Alternately, Ivan is a flat character because we learn nothing about his personality. We only
know what he looks like.
Read pp. 40-44 (stop at “ ‘…waste their time with us.’ ”).
Complete the following table with information about Nat from what we read to determine what
kind of character Nat is. Use your own words!
Methods of
Nat’s speech & language
(2 examples)
Examples from the selection
Nat’s physical appearance &
(2 examples)
Nat’s private thoughts &
(3 examples)
Other characters’ feelings &
thoughts about Nat
(2 examples)
Nat’s actions
(2 examples)
What the author says about
Nat’s personality (sneaky,
honest, evil, innocent, etc.)
(2 examples)
Theories About the Birds’ Behavior
Nat and the other characters have theories (or possible explanations) about the birds’ unusual
behavior. Fill in the table below by recording the different theories given by Nat and other
characters. Use the page numbers to help you locate their theories.
Skim through pp. 33-46 and find the information.
1. Nat (has several
a. p. 33, 41 (What message
do they get?)
b. p. 35 (Where did the birds
come from?)
c. p. 42 (What is
troublesome about their
“new” behavior?)
2. Mr. Trigg (farmer)
p. 33 (What has he noticed
about their behavior?)
p. 41 (What does he plan to
do to the birds?)
3. Jill (daughter)
p. 36 (How does she think
the problem can be solved?)
4. Mrs. Trigg
p. 36-37 (How does she
explain the weather?)
Quotes from Text
5. Jim
p. 37 (Who else has a
similar theory?)
6. BBC radio news
(the “wireless”) &
p. 38
p. 42 (Who is responsible?)
p. 44 (What should people
7. Nat’s wife
p. 39, 43 (What does she
believe should be done
about the birds?)
This story is about the conflict between man and nature. In what we’ve read so far, man has been
unable to defend itself against the birds’ erratic behavior or to find an explanation for it.
Reconsider what Nat thinks when the BBC stops broadcasting (p. 44). All the events that lead up
to that emphasize how hard it is for “civilized” humans to protect themselves from attacks by
“primitive” beasts. It also points out that man, with all this science and technology, can do
nothing to fight off the birds’ attacks.
We think of primitive animals as those that don’t have the ability to reason or understand
the concept of “self.” They can’t think of themselves as individuals or rationalize their actions.
(Look at p. 42 where Nat believes the birds are learning how to attack the humans and display a
willingness to die for some reason unknown to man.)
This story also points out the tendency for humans to live separately from one another, even
through they live in communities. Notice how the BBC announcement tells people to “unite to do
the utmost they can” to protect themselves, like this idea is something that would never occur to
people if they weren’t reminded.
Think about recent events in America that have put man in conflict with nature. Has man been
able to defend himself? What conflicts has man experienced with “primitive” animals? How have
these events shown how divided the people are? What attempts at unity were made?
Inferring Details About Plot: More Foreshadowing
We talked about how Daphne du Maurier uses suspense to foreshadow events that will occur
later in the story in order to keep readers interested. Now that we have finished the story, you
should be able to go back into the story and identify elements of foreshadowing.
Answer the following questions. Use your book and give text examples (with page numbers).
1. What is the first unusual thing that Nat notices about the birds flocking around Mr. Trigg’s
2. What two ominous events occur on the first night when Nat opens the bedroom window to
investigate the tapping sound? (Be specific about the events.)
3. When Nat goes down to the beach to bury the dead birds, he sees a strange and frightening
sight off shore. What is it? (Give a detailed description.)
4. What future discovery do these sentences foreshadow? “[Nat] noticed grimly that every
windowpane was shattered. Only the boards had kept the birds from breaking in.” (p. 47) Think
about what Nat sees when he gets to Mr. Trigg’s house.
Understanding What Happened: Plot Chart
Use the chart below to help you identify the parts of plot.