Sebastian Faulks

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Themes and Colors
History and the Future Theme Icon
Love and Hate Theme Icon
Sex and Gender Theme Icon
Nature, War, and Morality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Birdsong, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

History and the Future

At its essence, Sabastian Faulks’ Birdsong is a powerful reminder of the importance of the past on present and future generations. Birdsong chronicles the lives of Englishman Stephen Wraysford and his granddaughter, Elizabeth Benson, spanning two continents and nearly seventy years, and this unique structure allows Faulks to highlight the impact of historical trauma across generations. Stephen’s experiences in the violent trenches of World War I deeply affect who he becomes, and while the…

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Love and Hate

From the passion of young lovers to the deadly animosity of war, Birdsong is an intimate look at the many forms of love and hate. The characters within Sebastian Faulks’ novel are overwhelmingly driven by these two conflicting emotions, each in different ways and to very different ends, and Englishman Stephen Wraysford is one such example. As a young man before World War I, Stephen is motivated by his forbidden love for Isabelle Azaire

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Sex and Gender

With the passionate affair between Englishman Stephen Wraysford and the married Isabelle Azaire, sex is prominently displayed—and explicitly described—within Sabastian Faulks’ Birdsong. When Stephen goes abroad to France to study textile manufacturing, he falls in love with the wife of his preceptor. Isabelle, neglected in her arranged marriage and stifled by a patriarchal society, eagerly enters into the affair. Her own marriage is completely lacking in sexual satisfaction, and her husband, René

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Nature, War, and Morality

Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong is infused with signs of nature and elements of the natural world. Birds, a symbol of optimism in the darkness of war, are heard singing over battlefields, and Jack Firebrace and the other English miners use small yellow canaries to test deadly gas levels deep beneath the soil of the World War I trenches. The serene and pastoral setting of the French battlefield is a cruel reminder of nature’s disregard for…

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