Robert Stroud was an essence of many things. He was considered the strangest man alive. He was also considered a genius. He was convicted of a murder in Alaska and was sentence to life in prison. In the movie Birdman of Alcatraz, he keeps birds as pets and finds cures for them when they got sick. He started to have pet birds in Leavenworth Prison and was told he could not have pets at Alcatraz. This starts a trend and he and the other convicts acquire birds, such as canaries, as gifts from the outside. Before long, Stroud has built up a collection of birds and cages. When they got sick, he conjured up experiments and tried to come up with a cure. As the years pass, Stroud becomes an expert on bird diseases. His writings are so impressive that a doctor describes him as a "genius."
Stroud is a paradox of a man living in a time period of violence. On the way to the prison he breaks a window in order for the suffocating prisoners, and this gets him off to a bad start with the warden at the Leavenworth Prison. At the beginning of his sentencing he got upset really easily and attacked a guard for making his mother leave before she could see him. After that he starts to calm down and gets into his studies.
When Stroud worked with the birds, he studied a lot. He taught himself half a dozen languages. He also taught himself a bunch of scientific subjects which helped him cure the birds. People thought he was a genius. Even with all those studies and working with birds, he kept to himself and rehabilitated himself.
He never broke out with the outside world. He never read a newspaper, watched a television, listened to radio, never saw an airplane, and never saw a car. He also became rehabilitated. Still at kept with a keen eye with authority, Stroud nevertheless manages to help stop a prison rebellion in 1946 by throwing out the guns the convicts got their hands on. He then assures the guards that they can now re-enter the premises without fear of being shot. He was never broken, never been beaten, and is known as the defiant man alive.