Papa's Parrot Questions and Answers
by Cynthia Rylant

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What is the theme of "Papa's Parrot"?

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The theme of Papa's Parrot involves the effects of coming of age in young people, and the way that we tend to want to separate from our parents. It also points at the fact that, once we do separate from our parents both mentally and physically, it takes maturity to realize that this is a behavior that does not come from the heart, but from an inner desire to grow and become independent. Either way, it is a sad realization that sometimes comes to us a little too late in life. 

Just take a look at the symbols in the story. The fact that Harry's dad was "fat" and worked in a candy store denotes the innocence of Harry, who had no issue with it, and whose friends also visited the candy store...when they were very young.

Later on, as things become more sophisticated and aesthetic in the eyes of the growing youths, the candy store becomes instantly associated with childhood; this is why Harry and his friends quit going to the candy store and prefer to use the newer, "cooler" penny machines to get their candy from it; they are still young, but now they are growing. Everything associated with their childhood is to be rejected, and the people associated with it, as well. 

When Harry's dad gets the parrot, it is clear that he does it because he felt lonely. In fact, he speaks to it more than he does to people. When he has his heart attack, Papa can no longer tend to the candy shop, so Harry steps up and promises to take care of it. It is then when he hears the parrot speak the words that he hears his owner...

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