Analysis

Weissberg, the playwright, believes that there is an artistic quality to what Jack does, a kind of beauty in crime and violence. But Jack's totally rejects this notion, as his reaction to Weissberg's idea of writing a play about his life suggests. Jack does not relish the idea of being immortalized on the page. It seems that Marcus agrees with Weissberg, however, because he writes a book about Jack, which indicates that he feels there is an artistic quality to the man's life. The fact that Marcus would write such a book even though he knows that Jack does not want to be immortalized or depicted as an artist suggests that Marcus has written this book at least partially for himself. Legs exists to mythologize Marcus almost as much as it does to mythologize Jack.

Jack's odd experience on the canary-carrying freight boat emphasizes the already developing link between Jack and canaries. As Jack leaves the freighter, someone calls him a bird in a gilded cage. The comparison is apt, for while Jack has plenty of money, his lifestyle and his crimes trap him, sometimes literally putting him behind bars. Jack spends much of his life as a fugitive. He is banned from Manhattan and forced to live Upstate. It is appropriate that Jack is connected both to cats and to caged birds; the two connections contradict each other just as Jack's consciousness contradicts itself. Alice and Kiki are also connected to canaries because Jack named his two canaries after the two women. Kiki is most like a canary, for she is constantly held in a hotel under the supervision of one of Jack's men.

Jack struggles internally with questions of family loyalty and Irish Catholicism. The importance of family to Jack is evident in his extremely close relationship with his brother. Although Eddie has died by the time most of the events in this novel take place, we can see evidence of Jack's attachment to him in the fact that he finds Fogerty, who looks just like Eddie, to act as his right hand man. Jack goes to church fairly regularly, donates money to the church, is married to a religious women, and keeps a rosary around. But Jack also has a fascination with the Masons. When his cousin sees his lapel pin and calls him a turncoat, Jack claims that it is just business. Yet Jack's interest in Masonic symbology extends beyond practicality. The awkward encounter with his cousin affects Jack, and might be one of the reasons he decides not to visit his family while in Philadelphia. Jack feels much more at home in the Newark speakeasy than with the family he has left behind.