Unbroken

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The Bird Symbol Analysis

The Bird Symbol Icon
One of the worst Japanese war criminals, Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe is the novel’s epitome of evil, representing humankind’s utmost capacity for violence. In the wild, birds often are seen to represent freedom, so the Bird’s nickname emphasizes the freedom he has in comparison to the POWs, specifically with regards to his unrestricted freedom to torture the prisoners without consequence.

The Bird Quotes in Unbroken

The Unbroken quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bird. 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:
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Random House edition of Unbroken published in 2010.
Chapter 28 Quotes

Now he was condemned to crawl through the filth of a pig’s sty, picking up feces with his bare hands and cramming handfuls of the animal’s feed into his mouth to save himself from starving to death. Of all of the violent and vile abuses that the Bird had inflicted upon Louie, none had horrified and demoralized him as did this. If anything is going to shatter me, Louie thought, this is it.

Related Characters: Louis “Louie” Zamperini , Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe
Related Symbols: The Bird
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Louie is forced to endure an especially awful punishment at the hands of the sadistic "Bird": he’s forced to crawl on the floor of a pig sty, picking up pig feces with his bare hands. Furthermore, Louie has to eat the feces just to survive. This torture is not only disgusting and horrific, it's also entirely dehumanizing--Louie is made to act like an animal, or something even lower than an animal. The Bird is trying to break Louie’s spirit, and this kind of torture tries to get him to think of himself as a mere beast.

The passage shows Louie coming close to giving up entirely. And yet even here, at the nadir of his time in captivity, Louie maintains his sanity and his confidence (barely). The one Japanese soldier who treated him with kindness and support has inspired him to be strong. Thus, even while Louie is thinking about being “shattered,” he continues to maintain some distance from his own punishment—it’s as if he’s just closing his eyes and waiting for it to be over.

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Chapter 35 Quotes

Louie had no idea what had become of the Bird, but he felt sure that if he could get back to Japan, he could hunt him down. This would be his emphatic reply to the Bird’s unremitting effort to extinguish his humanity: I am still a man. He could conceive of no other way to save himself. Louie had found a quest to replace his lost Olympics. He was going to kill the Bird.

Related Characters: Louis “Louie” Zamperini , Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe
Related Symbols: The Bird
Page Number: 361
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hillenbrand shows us how low Louie has sunk after coming home from World War Two. Louie endured incredibly harsh conditions in his POW camp—most of it at the hands of a Japanese soldier nicknamed “The Bird." The result is that Louie, despite having survived the war, feels a continued hatred for the Bird. He’s been so traumatized by his violent torture that he thinks the only solution is more violence. Thus, Louie plans to return to Japan and kill his old tormenter. He feels helpless and lost in America, and feels that he can only take meaningly action and reclaim his human dignity by taking the life of his enemy.

Louie’s attempts to find justice and peace after World War Two are especially poignant because they suggest that the remainder of his life will be dominated by his memories of the past. Louie has always been an optimistic person who focuses on the future; now, he can think of no future other than one in which he settles his past scores.

Chapter 37 Quotes

No one could reach Louie, because he had never really come home. In prison camp, he’d been beaten into dehumanized obedience to a world order in which the Bird was absolute sovereign, and it was under this world order that he still lived. The Bird had taken his dignity and left him feeling humiliated, ashamed, and powerless, and Louie believed that only the Bird could restore him, by suffering and dying in the grip of his hands. A once singularly hopeful man now believed that his only hope lay in murder.

Related Characters: Louis “Louie” Zamperini , Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe
Related Symbols: The Bird
Page Number: 373
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Hillenbrand sums up Louie’s state of being after World War Two and before his religious conversion. He’s always been optimistic, and yet he’s now singularly fixated on the past rather than the future. Furthermore, Louie feels the need to struggle for his humanity and assert himself through violence. He spent so long being treated like an animal that he internalized some of the feelings of inferiority that the Bird was trying to make him feel. Louie rationally knows that he’s a human being, but he can’t help but hate himself as a result of the humiliating exercises he was forced to endure in Japan.

What Hillenbrand is describing, of course, is post-traumatic stress disorder, though the term hadn’t yet been popularized at the time. Louie doesn’t know that he’s suffering from a serious psychological affliction—as far as he’s concerned, his problem is his and his alone. Thus, instead of seeking help from doctors or counselors, Louie tries to solve his problems with violence—i.e., by killing the Bird.

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The Bird Symbol Timeline in Unbroken

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bird appears in Unbroken. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 24: Hunted
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...them for fear that they are plotting against him. Instead, the prisoners call him the Bird because it carries no negative connotations in case he finds out about the nickname. At... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...defiance of the Geneva Convention’s law that protects POW officers from having to work, the Bird makes the officers, including Louie, into slave laborers, forcing them to clean the toilets in... (full context)
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...from the sadistic Japanese doctors. But Kano could do nothing to protect Louie from the Bird’s violent attacks. (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
Watanabe’s attacks intensify. When the Bird demands that Louie look him in the eyes, Louie refuses, prompting more vicious attacks. To... (full context)
Chapter 25: B-29
War and Identity  Theme Icon
The appearance of the bomber makes the Bird even more vicious. On one occasion, the Bird runs into the barracks, calling for everyone... (full context)
Chapter 26: Madness
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...B-29 bombers over Tokyo, destroying the city. Whenever a B-29 flies over the camp, the Bird cracks down on the prisoners, beating them and prohibiting them from small enjoyments like singing... (full context)
Dignity Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
...the Japanese Red Cross. He meets one of the POWs who tells him of the Bird’s cruelty. By New Years, the Bird receives order to transfer to a distant isolated camp.... (full context)
Chapter 27: Falling Down
Dignity Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
After Watanabe leaves, the kind guard Yukichi Kano takes his place and the Bird’s reign of terror ends. William Harris arrives in the camp with a group of new... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
...in front of a shack in the compound. Suddenly, the door flies open and the Bird runs at the prisoners. Louie collapses from shock and fear. (full context)
Chapter 28: Enslaved
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Louie would remember that moment when he saw the Bird as the darkest of his life. But the Bird is overjoyed to see him, thinking... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
...a factory. When the the Japanese guard charged with overseeing the officers complains to the Bird that the officers are lazy, he punishes the men, making them carry tons of coal... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...full rations and suffering from dysentery, Louie fears he will starve. Desperate, he asks the Bird for work. Savoring the request, the Bird makes him clean out the pig sty with... (full context)
Chapter 29: Two Hundred and Twenty Punches
Dignity Theme Icon
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
When the men return to camp, the Bird claims that the officers must have been involved in the theft. As punishment, he makes... (full context)
Chapter 30: The Boiling City
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
...a work detail, the officials send Louie back to half rations. After Louie begs the Bird for work, the Bird commands him to watch over the camp’s goat. The Bird says... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
As punishment, the Bird makes Louie carry a thick, six-foot beam over his head. The Bird says that if... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
...the strength he has to hold up the beam. In a flurry of motion, the Bird charges towards him and rams his fist into Louie’s stomach. The beam falls Louie’s head,... (full context)
Dignity Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
Each day, Louie grows thinner and weaker. One day, the Bird approaches Louie and tells him that tomorrow he will drown him. After spending the day... (full context)
Chapter 31: The Naked Stampede
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...them from testifying about the guards’ war crimes. A week before the kill-all date, the Bird disappears from the camp and the guards tell the prisoners they will soon march into... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...worries that the guards will still kill them. Five days before the execution date, the Bird returns. Louie thinks that he looks changed, but cannot pinpoint the difference. (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...have a chance to take revenge on him. On the day of the announcement, the Bird, knowing that the Allies would charge him with war crimes, stole a bag of rice... (full context)
Chapter 32: Cascades of Pink Peaches
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...news and magazines to the POWs. A celebration of eating and smoking commences. With the Bird gone, Louie gives up his desire for revenge. Throughout the camp, forgiveness reigns and the... (full context)
Chapter 34: The Shimmering Girl
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...goes up to his boyhood room and falls asleep. That night, he dreams of the Bird. (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
In the Japanese metropolis of Kofu, the Bird hears on the radio his name on a list of war criminals. He decides to... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
...full of interviews, fancy dinners, and speeches, but at night he dreams only of the Bird. At one speaking engagement, Louie begins to drink more than normally in order to calm... (full context)
Chapter 35: Coming Undone
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
In Louie’s life, the Bird continues to haunt his dreams. Louie withdraws from his wife and friends and into training... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...prospect of the Olympics, Louie’s depression deepens. During the day, he obsessively thinks about the Bird and his nightmares only get worse. Drinking heavily, Louie becomes enraged easily, beating up strangers... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
...helped arrest one of his wartime captors, Louie starts fantasizing about finding and killing the Bird. Louie feels as if vengeance is the only way to save himself from his spiraling... (full context)
Chapter 36: The Body on the Mountain
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...wife, and their live-in servant. The officer leaves, not realizing that the servant was the Bird. (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...his son on a trip through major cities. In the cities, no one recognizes the Bird, which gives him the hope that he can visit his family, who he hasn’t seen... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
Watanabe returns to the farmer’s village. The Bird works as a waiter in the farmer’s son’s coffee shop. After a young woman falls... (full context)
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...the dead body. She says it’s her son and the Japanese government announces that the Bird is dead. (full context)
Chapter 37: Twisted Ropes
Dignity Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
Living in Hollywood, Louie does not know about the announcement of the Bird’s death. Drinking heavily and consumed by a desire to kill the Bird, Louie is unable... (full context)
Dignity Theme Icon
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...bring himself out of his rage and alcoholism. One night, while dreaming of killing the Bird, Louie wakes to find himself strangling his pregnant wife. He stops himself and lies back,... (full context)
Chapter 38: A Beckoning Whistle
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
...That night he dreams of Satan hunched over his bed, holding the same belt that Bird used to beat him. (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
...sink. For the first time since arriving in the U.S., he doesn’t dream of the Bird that night. The next morning he finds an old Bible and goes to sit under... (full context)
Chapter 39: Daybreak
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
War and Identity  Theme Icon
At the camp, Louie learns that the Bird had killed himself. All Louie feels is compassion and forgiveness for the man whose life... (full context)
Epilogue
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
...producer, Draggan Mihailovich, who is making a film on his life tells Louie that the Bird is still alive. (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...its relationship with Japan so they dropped the charges against the war criminals. When the Bird returned to his family in Tokyo, they received him with open arms. The Bird told... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...makes a small fortune by starting an insurance agency. In 1995, in his mid-seventies, the Bird feels ready to publically discuss his role as a prison guard. Perhaps motivated by guilt... (full context)
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
...setting up a meeting between him and the Watanabe during the Olympic Games, but the Bird refuses. Unable to offer his captor forgiveness, Louie writes him a letter where he details... (full context)
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
Redemption and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
...past his former prison, he has no bad memories of the war or of the Bird. He feels only joy. (full context)