The Bird’s Nest

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Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not just one girl—but four separate, self-destructive personalities. The Bird’s Nest, Jackson’s third novel, develops hallmarks of the horror master’s most unsettling work: tormented heroines, riveting familial mysteries, and a disquieting vision inside the human mind.
Curriculet Details
49 Questions
51 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum designed for 9th and 10th grade students contains interactive videos exploring irony, tone and different forms of figurative language as well as annotations describing characterization, conflict and imagery. Students will explore the themes of family, perseverance and courage. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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A foreword is usually a short piece of writing placed at the beginning of a book. Typically written by someone other than the primary author of the work, it often tells of some interaction between the writer of the foreword and the book's primary author or the story the book tells.  


Follow the link below to read about writing from different points of view. which point of view is chapter one written? 
List: An inclination to one side, as of a ship; a tilt. To lean or cause to lean to the side: The damaged ship listed badly to starboard. Erosion first listed, then toppled the spruce tree. [Origin unknown.]  
Left click a word with your mouse or press a word with your finger for a second to use the define feature or add your own annotations. (When a given definition does not seem to fit the context of the reading, then you will want to use the "search Wikipedia or Google this word" option within the "define" feature in order to explore other definitions.)  
Why did Aunt Morgan adopt a masculine personality?  Include evidence from the text to support your response. 
It is really obvious at this point that Elizabeth is extremely meek and submissive when she does not even respond to her Aunt, as she talks about how she thought about killing her mother. 
When Aunt Morgan tells Elizabeth that she is happy, she says this___________. 
The author uses figurative language in the highlighted text to convey the Aunt's anger as it builds in this scene. Please view the video below to see how to distinguish between similes and metaphors. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Aunt Morgan ask about Elizabeth's head in the morning? 
People that suffer from split personalities are often completely unaware of the actions of one personality when a different one is present. 
What word does Mr. Arrow use to describe Elizabeth? 
It seems pretty apparent that Aunt Morgan is seeking affirmation when she says that she has not been much of a mother to Elizabeth. 
The highlighted sentence is an example of which type of figurative language? 


It's interesting that the point of view from which the story is told changes in the second chapter to first-person while the first chapter is written in third-person omniscient.  
Use the define feature to derive the meaning of tautology.  Which of the words below would be an antonym of that word? 
It seems likely that Elizabeth's Aunt would be opposed to hypnosis because she would not want some of her behavior to come to light. 
The provisions that Elizabeth sets on her hypnosis shows that she is ________. 
The prolonged analogy where the Doctor compares Elizabeth's state to a stoppage in a water main creates a humorous tone. Please see the video below for a more detailed description of tone. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Elizabeth start wringing her fingers under hypnosis? 
It's interesting that Elizabeth is more assertive under hypnosis than when she is fully awake. Usually people are more passive and open to suggestion when they are under hypnosis since they are in a relaxed state. 
What upset Miss R. the most about the letter that she wrote for the museum? 
Asmodeus is a king of demons. He is the demon of lust and is therefore responsible for twisting people's sexual desires. (This annotation contains an image)
According to the Doctor, what is a more accurate term for "multiple personality"? 
People that suffer from multiple personality disorder sometimes possess personalities that are different ages representing the time period when the traumatic event(s) took place. This would explain the child-like writing. 
Here, we learn whence the title of the book originates. Read the following nursery rhyme by following the link. Afterward, explain the connection, if any, that the author has made between her novel and the nursery rhyme. 
Why are Elizabeth's answers so brief when she is asked about her mother? 
It appears that the headaches are a defense mechanism to avoid unpleasantness, rather than a symptom of fatigue. 
When Betsy tells the doctor that he should be ashamed for talking about Lizzie behind her back, she is being __________. 
The pumpkin shell from the nursery rhyme Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater was actually a reference to a chastity belt. This probably indicates that Elizabeth"s mom was promiscuous. 
Which personality is summoning Dr. Wrong? 
The highlighted text is an example of irony; please watch the video below for a more detailed explanation of irony. (This annotation contains a video)
Which type of literary device is used to describe the aunt in the highlighted sentence? 
The Bird's Nest Quiz: Chapters 1 & 2 


In the third chapter, the point of view changes back and forth between third-person and first-person as we read the story from Betsy's perspective. 
Why does Betsy say goodbye three times as the bus is leaving? 
The imagery in the highlighted text paints a vivid picture of Betsy's anguish. The author utilizes exceptionally wordy sentences to help illustrate the helplessness that Betsy felt as she watched Elizabeth sleep and dream. 
Describe the stark contrasts between Betsy's personality in her memory and her current personality. Include specific textual examples to support your answer. 
The highlighted text makes the reader wonder if Elizabeth's mom really died, or did she simply abandon Elizabeth to be with Robin? 
Why is Betsy Richmond's age significant? 
Elizabeth's reaction to seeing herself naked in the mirror makes the reader wonder if she was sexually abused. 
Betsy inviting a complete stranger to join her for lunch and then telling him that the bus driver told her to be careful is an example of which literary device? 
When Betsy blurts out that she has plenty of money, this really shows her naivety. It also seems like her date is gong to try and take advantage of her. 
What causes Betsy to storm off before desert? 
It's somewhat ironic that the woman on the bus acts and talks as if she is superior to Betsy, yet she is traveling on a bus. Although, this conversation could be a complete delusion. 
How is the stout women characterized? 
If Betsy is the evil personality, and she does not remember trashing the hotel room, could it have been Elizabeth or even Beth? 
The highlighted text is evidence that Betsy's character has become more_________. 
It seems clear that Betsy's character has evolved and become much more likeable as the story has progressed.  
Why was it a good sign that the lady was wearing a pink dress? 
The rambling and frequent questions in the highlighted paragraph really illustrates the insanity that Betsy's character epitomizes. 
When Elizabeth is packing her things in the hotel, who is she worried might return any moment? 
The highlighted text would be an example of an external conflict (character v character) rather than internal conflict (a struggle within one's mind) since two different identities are fighting each other. The irony is that this grappling of external forces is occurring inside a single person.  


The point of view of the story changes again in this chapter to _______. 
It seems that Dr. Wright has uncovered a fourth personality. 
Why does Dr. Wright suspect that he is no longer speaking with Elizabeth, R1? 
The phrase, "...brillig; o borogrove" is from a nonsense poem entitled Jabberwocky and was written by the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. This allusion refers to the puzzling world into which Alice, and in this case Elizabeth, Beth or even Dr. Wright, have entered where nothing is as it appears and nonsense reigns. This theme will reappear in later chapters.  
Bess's statements show that she is quite _________. 
Bess's description of herself and her reaction to the possibility of scars shows that she is very vain. 
Which form of figurative language is the highlighted phrase? 
It seems Ms. R. has once again gotten the better of Dr. Wright by unleashing the fragile Beth on him as he was scolding Bess. 
Bess's character can best be described as _______. 
Just an interesting factoid: Left-handed individuals make up only 10% of the total population, but up to 40% of patients with schizoaffective disorder are lefties. 
Since Betsy cannot physically hurt Bess without hurting herself, how is she going after Bess?  Support your response with textual evidence. 
It seems likely that Robin had some sort of inappropriate relationship with Betsy, but now it looks as if Betsy might not have been an innocent victim. 
Jumprope rhyme: "I love coffee. I love tea. I love the boys And they love me. Tell your mother To hold her tongue. She was the same When she was young. No more coffee. No more tea. No more boys And no more me." 
When Bess says that all she wants is to be left alone, this is an example of which literary device? 
Dr. Wrong is no longer Betsy's adversary having been replaced by Bess. Betsy's contempt for Bess in part is probably due to their similarities.  
According to the text, why is Dr. Wright greatly relieved when Bess gets up and leaves their session? 
It's interesting how earlier in the story Betsy admitted to feeling like a prisoner suppressed by Elizabeth. Now Ms. R. and all her identities are being managed and monitored like a prisoner but this time by external forces (Dr. Wright and Miss Jones). 
The interior design of Miss Jones's living room seems to match which character's personality? 
Miss Jones's reply to Dr. Wright is just dripping with sarcasm. Her statements also illustrate the static nature of her character. Please see the video below for greater clarification on static and dynamic characters. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Dr. Wright say is a pity? 
The highlighted text would explain why Aunt Morgan was so upset when Elizabeth went out in the middle of the night earlier in the book. She does not want her following in her mother's footsteps. 
What does Aunt Morgan's rant show about her personality? 
Dr. Wright's rant and threat on Bess's very existence suggests that he is in over his head with Ms. R's case and feels inadequate or ill-prepared to deal successfully with the growing independence of the personalities. One can only speculate whether or not he was prepared to be called on his bluff.  
The Bird's Nest Quiz: Chapters 3 & 4 


Based on Bess's dialogue we see that she is the personality who is chronologically stuck at the time period of her mother's death. 
Why did Aunt Morgen get up and leave the table? 
Here we ask, "Did she fall asleep again, or was she already asleep?" One could argue that Morgen was sleeping. For example, when Morgen came downstairs in a "rosy and painless" state as though "walking in a cloud," she was without headache; she had no awareness of what had happened the night before or what her own hand was about to do. She thought that her hands were infested with worms to the point that she fled the kitchen leaving the refrigerator door open. There is no mention of a return to bed: only that she put her hands beneath her pillow.  
Read about the five stages of storytelling at the link below. stage is represented by the highlighted text? 
Could Aunt Morgen's guilt over her own snappish behavior be what brings her to show uncharacteristic kindness to her niece in the face of frustration?  
Why did Morgen dodge a kiss from Beth? 
Morgen's attitude improves when Betsy surfaces. They seem to share a similar sense of humor/sarcasm.  
Where does Aunt Morgan think about sending her niece? 
Morgen begins quoting a soliloquy from Shakespeare's Macbeth. The message here is that life is short, yet compact and what we do with that brief amount of time doesn't really matter.  
Which of Elizabeth's personalities speaks in Nursery Rhyme? 
When Morgen speaks "over-heartily" we know that she is fearful that Bess might hurt her physically as the hostility between the two is escalating.  
Why is Aunt Morgan afraid? 
The personality shifting at this point in the story is happening so frequently and quickly that it's hard to tell, but this may be Elizabeth speaking in nursery rhyme in attempt to win the favor of her aunt who's experiencing a moment of tenderness. This thought is supported by Elizabeth saying, "...I only wanted to-" which perhaps indicates that she was attempting to mimic Betsy, Morgen's preferred personality.  
When there is something about yourself that you've decided to repress, and your psyche projects that quality onto everything you see in order for YOU to see it in yourself, this is called "shadow-boxing." Who is "shadow-boxing" in this reference? Explain your reasoning for choosing that character. 
When this book was written, saying that a "girl got into trouble" could be a way of saying that an unmarried girl became pregnant. At this point in the book, is it safe to presume that Morgen is accusing Robin of impregnating Elizabeth, and blaming her mom for allowing it to happen? 
Why are Dr. Wright and Morgen restraining Ms. R? 


Imagine being "a little more than twenty-five" and feeling alone inside your mind for the first time! It's no wonder why she wants to run, pick flowers, and feel grass under her feet as a child does.  
What did the hair represent to her as it was being cut? 
Dr. Wright is "gratified" by the transformation of his patient. It's as though he takes credit for Elizabeth's transformation.  
When Elizabeth is standing before the picture, what is she thinking? 
The classic nursery rhyme, The Gingerbread Man (also known by other titles) is essentially about a character who is attempting his escape from several pursuers but eventually meets his demise and is devoured. One version of the rhyme ends with a fox catching and eating the gingerbread man who cries as he's devoured, "I'm quarter gone...I'm half gone...I'm three-quarters gone...I'm all gone!" Four quarters, eaten one by one, as in Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy, and Beth.  
How has Aunt Morgen's character changed over the course of the narrative? 
The highlighted monologue is an example of which phase of storytelling? 
We see that Dr. Wright has a grand plan for molding this "empty vessel" of a girl and filling her with only that which he finds agreeable. This likens him to Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the monster we now call Frankenstein. Is Shirley Jackson alluding to the future for Dr. Victor Wright and his creation, the "new" Elizabeth? Indeed, Dr. Wright's duty as he sees it, is sobering! 
How did Dr. Wright feel about being a guest in Mrs. Arrow's home?  Support your response with textual evidence. 
Can this also be read as, "Elizabeth's four personalities were devoured in order to have a resultant singular, whole person?" Or, "Did the group of personalities sharing one sacrificial victim: the performance of a group?" 
The Bird's Nest: Chapters 5 & 6 Quiz