(Masterpieces of American Literature)

From the short-story collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, “Crickets” is the story of a Vietnamese family displaced to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and the rift that develops between a father who would like to retain his Vietnamese heritage and a son who prefers all things American. Butler repeats his trope of the collision of cultures, this time as embodied in a second-generation Vietnamese American.

Thiệu is a chemical engineer in a Lake Charles refinery. His American coworkers insist upon calling him Ted; he believes that they call him Ted because they want to think of him as one of them. Thiệu knows that he will never truly be one of them; everything about him and them is so radically different, right down to size. He gives in to the name change because he believes that he has done enough fighting for one lifetime.

As part of the acculturation process, Thiệu has given his son an American name, Bill. The son speaks no Vietnamese and is embarrassed when his father tells him goodbye in Vietnamese. In an attempt to instill some of his heritage in his son, Thiệu decides to teach his son one of his own childhood games from Vietnam, Crickets. Thiệu has difficulty in keeping his son engaged as he explains the game and as they search for crickets.

Thiệu tells his son that there are two types of crickets, charcoal crickets and fire crickets. The charcoal crickets are large and strong but slow and easily...

(The entire section is 483 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Beidler, Philip D. Re-Writing America: Vietnam Authors in Their Generation. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Broyard, Anatole. Review of The Alleys of Eden, by Robert Olen Butler. The New York Times, November 11, 1981, 29.

Lohafer, Susan. “Real-World Characters in Fictional Story Worlds: Robert Olen Butler’s ’JFK Secretly Attends Jackie Auction.’” In The Art of Brevity: Excursions in Short Fiction Theory and Analysis, edited by Per Winther et al. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004.

Myers, Thomas. Walking Point: American Narratives of Vietnam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Packer, George. “From the Mekong to the Bayous.” The New York Times Book Review 97 (June 7, 1992): 24.

Ryan, Maureen. “Robert Olen Butler’s Vietnam Veterans: Strangers in an Alien Home.” The Midwest Quarterly 38, no. 3 (1997): 274-294.

Sartisky, Michael. “A Pulitzer Profile: Louisiana’s Robert Olen Butler.” Cultural Vistas: Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 4 (Fall, 1993): 10-21.

Womack, Kenneth. “Reading the Titanic: Contemporary Literary Representations of the Ship of Dreams.” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 5, no. 1 (2003): 34-44.