In Cold Blood

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The Golden Parrot Symbol Analysis

The Golden Parrot Symbol Icon
In times of trouble, Perry Smith is often visited by visions of a golden parrot that swoops down and avenges him. Perry doesn’t consider himself to be a religious man, but he nonetheless ascribes a kind of divine power to the golden parrot. Toward the end of the book, while he’s in a hunger-induced delirium, Perry mutters to himself that the parrot is Jesus. Whatever the parrot is, it is a powerful symbol of Christianity, vengeance, and the divine, and it recurs throughout the story.

The Golden Parrot Quotes in In Cold Blood

The In Cold Blood quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Golden Parrot. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of In Cold Blood published in 1994.
Part 2 Quotes

It was after one of these beatings, one [Perry] could never forget…that the parrot appeared, arrived while he slept, a bird “taller than Jesus, yellow like a sunflower,” a warrior-angel who blinded the nuns with its beak, fed upon their eyes, slaughtered them as they “pleaded for mercy,” then so gently lifted him, enfolded him, winged him away to “paradise.”

Related Characters: Perry Edward Smith
Related Symbols: The Golden Parrot
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

While Perry's previous admission of his beliefs in fate and premonition seemed eccentric, this passage tips from eccentric to, depending on your perspective, a kind of religious ecstasy or an indication of possible mental illness. Perry here describes a cherished vision, one that has returned to him throughout his life, of a parrot who saves him from his own wrongdoing and the cruelty of others. The parrot, which Perry compares to Jesus, has a similar function -- to take Perry to paradise despite his sins.

This gives crucial insight into Perry's perspective on himself. Through the parrot, readers glimpse the litany of cruelties Perry has experienced at the hands of others, and we see that, while Perry does not always consider his actions to be good or righteous, he does feel that he is less cruel than other people, which excuses some bad behavior. Furthermore, he expects salvation not from his own deeds, but from the parrot. This logic sheds light on Perry's seemingly impossible hope for a fulfilling and stable life, and also his idea that he can achieve this without behaving wholly honorably. The parrot points to a complicated psychological disposition in which Perry's past and his (possibly pathological) beliefs in salvation and fate combine to make murder possible.


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The Golden Parrot Symbol Timeline in In Cold Blood

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Golden Parrot appears in In Cold Blood. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: Persons Unknown
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Normal vs. Abnormal Theme Icon
...Dick about the dream’s end, in which he is saved from the snake by a golden parrot “taller than Jesus, yellow like a sunflower,” and then is allowed to ascend to Paradise.... (full context)
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
Normal vs. Abnormal Theme Icon
...lands a gigantic sailfish, an act that makes him feel “as though at last…a tall yellow bird had hauled him to heaven.” (full context)
Part 4: The Corner
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Normal vs. Abnormal Theme Icon
...light bulb. “The walls of the cell fell away, the sky came down, I saw the big yellow bird .” (full context)
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Normal vs. Abnormal Theme Icon
...a voice that asks him, “Where is Jesus?” (“And once he woke up shouting, ‘ The bird is Jesus!’”) He has a recurrent dream of performing in a nightclub to an audience... (full context)