Grade: Senior
Subject: Literature

#1488. The Birds - exploring story and film

Literature, level: Senior
Posted Sun Jan 2 11:46:34 PST 2000 by Anna Baldwin (
Two Eagle River School, Pablo, Montana, USA
Materials Required: Copy of "The Birds" short story by Daphne DuMaurier and The Birds movie, dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Activity Time: 1-2 weeks
Concepts Taught: Compare/contrast; analysis; themes

1. Have students read short story "The Birds" by Daphne DuMaurier.
a. Ensure understanding of story.
b. Discuss concept of themes with students: an example of a theme in this story is
war; have students find and explain as many examples of this theme as they can (formation of the birds, blanket used as a weapon, many analogies to WWII).
c. Discuss the ending, which leaves the reader hanging; what effect does this have?

2. Have students write an ending onto the story. What happens to the family? Do the birds ever disappear? Why/why not?

3. Upper-level students: discuss themes such as the Oedipal Complex, fear/loneliness (the birds usually appear directly after someone mentions this topic), the depiction of women as strong or weak. Ask students to watch for/make notes of these themes as they view the film.

4. Watch the Hitchcock movie. Immediately begin asking students differences and similarities. Help them to understand more significant differences (as opposed to trivialities that may not affect the story).

5. Compare the end of the story to the end of the film: again, what effect does this kind of suspense have on the viewer? What major plot differences were there (think about the romance subplot, the many other characters, change of scenery)? What important scenes from the story did Hitchcock keep?

6. Post-viewing assignment: Write an essay on one of the following topics:

Compare/contrast the story with the movie.
Explore the theme of war in the short story.
Explore the theme of fear/loneliness and its connection to the birds' appearances in the film.
Identify and explain Oedipal Complex in reference to the film.
Discuss the depiction of women as strong/weak in the film.