Such freedom comes with a price, however. The novel’s birds symbolize both the joys of freedom and its potential dangers. As she listens to Mademoiselle Reisz
’s music, Edna
imagines a man watching a bird flying into the distance. Later, Edna’s story about illicit love makes her listeners hear the romantic rustling of birds in the dark. In both instances, birds are markers of forbidden desire. And as the book draws to its conclusion, birds become warning signs. Edna watches a bird with a broken wing float down to the ocean in the moments before she drowns.