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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