Rants and Whimsy

Jail Bird

January 15, 2015

This is a cartoon my husband drew aaaaaaaaaaages ago. Some when between fighting off velociraptor attacks and waiting for the Wheel 2.1 upgrade (now with smoother edges):


It’s called Jail Bird. I’ve seen this cartoon many, many times. I thought I understood it. I thought it was simplistic and straightforward and didn’t need any further mental gymnastics on my part. I am a big, stupid bumble bee. Recently, a new interpretation has just smacked me in the face with its obviousness and my foolish ineptitude is out there for everyone to see.

What I thought the cartoon meant:
The man is imprisoned. Rightfully, or wrongly, we don’t know. Regardless, he is in a dire and unhappy situation until he finds some paper and some scissors and crafts a small paper bird for his window. The bird cheers him up. It brightens his drab life and decorates his cell. It shows that no matter how bad your situation is, there’s always something you can do to make it better and reminds you that there is a whole world outside of your present situation. It’s sometimes the little things that can make the most difference. It’s a show of hope, even where there is little hope to be found.

The part I missed:
The man is imprisoned. He finds some paper and scissors and crafts a small paper bird for his window. He also attaches some rope to the top of the window, giving it the appearance of a bird cage hanging from the ceiling. With this simple yet crafty maneuver the prisoner has become the jailer.

His situation has become better by making someone else’s worse (in this case a paper bird). He’s now no longer the lowest rung on the ladder, he is master of another. He takes respite from his own hopeless situation by knowing that there’s someone worse off than him.

You know how sometimes someone attacks you and drags you down, seemingly for no reason? This is that experience. Those people are always miserable and looking to claim some of your happiness as their own.

It’s a simple concept that has many layers of meaning, from whimsy through to deeper criticism of the human psyche.

I think it’s really cool. It’s like the ghost of my husband as a young man travelled through time and handed me a frigging Easter egg. It’s also a nice example of how incredibly blind you can be and not even realise you’re missing anything.

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  • Reblogged this on JNYlink.

  • That’s really clever, I’ll share it on my Rebelmouse!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    • Thanks! Just when I think I know him, this happens. He’ll never be predictable πŸ˜‰

  • What a great find and picture. The creativity of the prisoner is very clever it reminds me of the film Cast Away, the bird being the equivalent to Wilson the ball. Make sure you treasure this Lucy

    • Thanks. My husband drew it, my house is filled with paper that is covered with all kinds of drawings, scribbles and sketches. He’s very clever πŸ˜‰

  • Tammy Paterson

    This is so clever. I thought the same thing as you for starters, until I read the other interpretation. Very clever.

    • Thanks Tim Tams! Good to know I’m not alone πŸ™‚

  • Just FYI, the rope is painted on.

  • What a great cartoon, and how brilliant that you found so many different meanings within it. Your husband is clearly very talented!

  • He’s incredibly talented! My interpretation was the same as your first one. It’s so fascinating going back to things later in life, it’s like reading a favourite childhood book as an adult and seeing things completely differently! (Like I find “Peter Pan” depressing as all get out now, but just thought it a romp as a kid) x

    • I remember feeling a little melancholy for the kids in Peter Pan as a child! I find that movies I used to watch over and over again as a child now make me sob. I’m an emotional mess πŸ˜‰

  • I paused between your first and second interpretations of the cartoon to see if I could spot it before I read your answer. I did, but it immediately made me feel sad. Our different interpretations of things over the years sure says a lot about where our heads are at the time, eh? Younger you saw hope, and older you sees a much grittier truth. It’s interesting!…if a little depressing, haha.

    • Oh god, that is depressing. Here I was thinking I was just thick ten years ago and I’d actually learned something πŸ˜€ haha

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