Pests and Plagues

   As I read The Avian Gospels, I am continually trying to discern the purpose of the book’s bible-like binding and biblical references. One connection I’ve made involves the main characters of the novel: the birds. Oddly, they are treated in the narration with a sort of neutral boredom; the narrator steps in to say that “we” found them to be pests, and Morgan’s deep devotion to his swans is fully fleshed out, but the general descriptions read like a bird guidebook (as Novy suggested in class). 

   I believe the birds are meant to parallel the plagues and pests of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, which is fraught with God-sent locusts and plagues. The birds are the central problem of the book; their movements and attacks are the plot devices which move the book along. If the book is truly an avian tale, the birds must represent some plague or punishment sent by the invisible gods the narrator speaks of. While the general public doesn’t seem to attribute the birds to a god (with the exception of Gypsies), they do attribute their sudden occupation to Morgan and his father.

   What does it mean that Morgan, the main messianic character in the book, has control of the pests that are (presumably) sent by some god? Does this deepen his prophetic abilities? Is Novy trying to depict a world that is no longer bothered by pests in a religious sense? I connect this to the sense of confusion we felt as a nation after 9/11; some religious fanatics posited that the attack was a punishment for our liberal ways. It would be fitting for the sudden appearance of the birds to represent a plague or god-sent pestilence in a book that is meant to look like the bible. Is this novel exploring how modern people would deal with an actual bird infestation? I find it interesting that the Gypsies are the only ones who believe it represents anything spiritual. Perhaps they are the key to the book’s biblical connections.

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