A Bird in the House consists of eight stories of Margaret Laurence's Manawaka collection that are essentially the same in setting, character, point of view, symbol, image and theme. These facts create much of the concentrated effect that impresses the reader of the book. The stories capitulate each other and resonate among themselves, telling in the end a single, developing tale. A Bird in the House by Margaret Laurence traces the important notion of changing characteristics, symbols and images and consciously forming memories
•by the narrator and protagonist Vanessa MacLeod to help develop her growth to maturity.
Vanessa is ten in the first three stories, and eleven or twelve in many others. In briefer incidents, she is a small child, an older adolescent, or young adult. The characters of the family members do not change, although their situations do, and this serves to dramatize changes within Vanessa herself, who matures within the narrative from a child's awareness -certain, comforting, self-centred, but also ignorant of other people's stats of mind and so powerless in action
•to an adult understanding of the confusing, complex and unfair realities that have produced her. This understanding is not easily or immediately achieved, but the stories show that Vanessa is sufficiently perceptive, sympathetic, humble and tough-minded to the truth of things
•and so to attain some degree of freedom over her circumstances. As a child, she is all curiosity, eagerly taking in information as fast as she can, even when she fails to appreciate what she observes. She is a "professional listener
•(8) who has secret "listening posts
•(63) around the house. She is the "out looking eye
•(35), always enlarging her "scope of vision
"I wanted to speak in some way that would be more poignant and comprehending than anything of which my mother could possibly be capable.