In Birdsong, Faulks represents different relationships with Stephen throughout. Many different relationships portray different experiences of love with each character and Stephen. Within my essay I will explain some of the different relationships with Stephen and how Faulks explores them. The form of Birdsong is a novel, this helps Faulks describe with detail the relationships with Stephen to give the reader a detailed idea of character’s opinions on other character’s and how they feel. Faulks also mixes the time periods around throughout the novel, this could be to help illustrate the changes in Stephen and his personality over time.
The first relationship with Stephen that Faulks tells us about is with Isabelle. Their relationship gradually turns into a sexual love. With this they have to have a secretive relationship, bringing them both excitement which neither of them have had before. Faulks writes “Stephen found that their hurried and clandestine couplings were made more powerful to him by their element of fear” showing that the fact their relationship is a secret is the reason why their relationship is so powerful and passionate.
By using alliteration with “clandestine coupling” makes it sound unemotional and less romantic. “The feeling of impalement” is a violent image written to describe a sex scene to suggest that their relationship was very physical and intense. “Impalement” could demonstrate the relation made by Faulks in Birdsong with war and sex as they are very closely linked throughout. Stephen’s relationship with Isabelle is later suggested to be perhaps a wrong and selfish decision. Their relationship could symbolise the decisions later made by authority that lead to the first world war.
Faulks writes “To mention what they did seemed more shameful then to do it” which could suggest that their relationship was only ever going to be a secret as they knew it was wrong. The thing that they had both thought was love had ended with no excitement as there was no secret any more. Stephen then loses all happiness and trust. Stephen then meets Jeanne during the war and gradually becomes close to her. His relationship with Jeanne is family love as they become dependent on each other and need each other for some stability in their lives. This relationship is very different to Stephen’s with Isabelle as Stephen is now ore mature and now knows what is best for him after seeing a lot during the war. Jeanne said to Stephen “I will wait for you”. Faulks could be suggesting that she immediately cared for Stephen and wanted him to stay close to her. Jeanne wanted to reassure Stephen that someone would be here for him when the war was finished. Even though there relationship was a lot less physical, their relationship had more trust then Stephen’s relationship with Isabelle. Arguably, this is the relationship Faulks uses to represent a stronger and more committed love with Stephen and a women.
Jeanne says to Stephen “Because I love you” and Stephen says “We will try”. This could shows the trust in their relationship. It also shows that they both know that the relationship is right and what they both need to help them after the war. Jeanne says “come and let me hold you” to Stephen to comfort him and show that she loved him. Faulks represents this relationship with more trust and comfort than Isabelle and Stephen. This could be to suggest that the war changed people and their decisions. “Stephen laughed for the first time” when with Jeanne to demonstrate that their relationship gradually making him happier.
It could also illustrate that Stephen is beginning to recover because of his relationship with Jeanne. Faulks also uses this relationship to show the change in Stephen’s personality after the war. Compared to Isabelle, which was a more selfish relationship, he has now changed to being more dependent and wanting a stable relation that isn’t just for himself. Structurally, the importance of Isabelle coming before the war shows how the war changed Stephens view on relationships as he became less selfish and more mature.
Their relationship may also show the selfish decisions that started the war. Even when Stephen fell silent for over a year, which was common for soldiers after the war, Jeanne stuck by him showing their love and stability. Stephen then goes into the war and becomes very close to another soldier called Wier. This relationship is Stephen’s main relationship during the war. These two characters could relate as neither of them had been loved as children. Wier’s parents had not loved him and didn’t understand how horrific the war was.
This was common during the war for people at home to not understand the true horror for the soldiers in the war. Stephen and Wier had a brotherly love for each other and trusted one another. Wier wants reassurance from Stephen and says “hold me” as he “crawled” over to him for comfort. This shows how close they were and that affection was shown slightly for each other because of how horrific the war was. Also, because he “crawled” Faulks could be suggesting that Wier looks up to Stephen for a parenting comfort as a child would because he didn’t have a good relationship with his parents.
Wier also looked for reassurance from Stephen through superstition as this was very common during the war. Although some affection was shown between the two soldiers when Wier was alive, after his death Stephen reveals more love towards Wier. Stephen thought “Wier alone had made the war bearable” as he was one of the only reasons he had stayed strong and coped with the war. Faulks also writes “yet he had loved him” which emphasises the strength of their relationship and the brotherly love between them. This also suggests that this is the first person Stephen had really loved.
Stephen also knew that “Wier had been braver by far than he was” but Wier still looked to Stephen for reassurance which shows the trust that their relationship had and how each other had made the war bearable. Another relationship with Stephen experienced during World War One was with Jack Firebrace. This is also another relationship Faulks has used to portray a brotherly love between soldiers. Earlier in the novel Jack had saved Stephen’s life which had helped create their strong relationship between each other.
When Jack is dying he says to Stephen “I could have loved you” portraying the love he had for Stephen and how he had respect for him. By using a auxiliary verb, “could” this may represent the idea of Jack never having the chance to love Stephen or perhaps that he never thought that he could have loved Stephen until now. This relationship also shows the two classes coming together in the war. When Jack dies “Stephen held the body in his arms, out of respect” to show how he admired Jack and wanted to hold him in respect for him because he meant a lot to Stephen.
At the end of the war, when Stephen meets a German soldier Levi, Faulks writes “For no reason he could tell, he found that he had opened his arms in turn” showing a strong male relationship with someone who has been an enemy. Faulks could perhaps be implying when Stephen opens is arms “For no reason he could tell” that compassion had been unexpected towards an enemy, but because he has been away from the war for a while, it didn’t make a difference who it had been that saved him. Faulks also writes that Levi opens his arms for Stephen unconsciously which could also demonstrate that compassion in the situation they were in was only atural but war had made them forget about gratitude. Levi also gave Stephen a belt saying ‘Gott mit uns’ for Stephen to remember him buy. This belt is later found by Elizabeth is granddaughter. Structurally, this shows the connection between the relationships Stephen had and how Stephen is still a part of the family after his death. The structure of the novel illustrates the contrast in relationships between Stephen when he was younger and didn’t know what was best for him, to after the war when he was a man and needed stability.
At the end of the novel Stephen had a lot more knowledge of the world because of the war which changed his view on relationships and what he needed. At first he was selfish and driven by excitement and after the war he was looking for trust and real love. Arguably, Faulks could be suggesting that Stephen’s first relationship is portraying what the decisions were like that led to the war and his relationship with Jeanne were like the reasons that ended the war. For example, just like Stephen, the Germans knew what was best for them.
Elizabeth, Stephens granddaughter, demonstrates how relationships can carry on even after death. Faulks writes “Somehow she would repay the debt; she would complete the circle” illustrating how relationships can still be shown even when the people have not met. It also illustrates that, what goes around, comes around meaning that it is continuous and that Stephen will carry on through other family members. Elizabeth also names her child John because Stephen had promised Jack that he would showing that Elizabeth saw her relationship with her grandfather as strong and wanted to keep his word even after his death.
Faulks represents many different types of love with Stephen to show the different sides of Stephen and how he gradually changed throughout the book. Over time Stephen gradually became more mature and learnt a lot through his different experiences through love. Faulks could be suggesting that an experience can change somebody’s decisions and how they look at the world. As Stephen went through the war, his knowledge of the world grew and he began to learn more about himself and what was best for him. Faulks could perhaps also be suggesting that the way we love might have much to do with the context in which we find ourselves. Naomi Body.
Cite this Relationships of Character in “Birdsong”
Relationships of Character in “Birdsong”. (2017, Mar 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/relationships-of-character-in-birdsong/