As the title promises, the story revolves around a compulsively jealous husband, who is, as the story opens, sitting on a perch in a cage in a pet store in Houston, reincarnated somehow as a parrot. The reincarnation of the human narrator’s consciousness into the animal body is established as the opening premise with the very title and is never explained. However, once Butler makes this stipulation, the story proceeds realistically. Rather than simply imagining a person in a parrot suit, Butler imagines the limitations of the parrot’s brain and nervous system. When his former wife, who enters the store and is drawn to him, says, “Hello,” he can say it back, but when she then says “Pretty bird,” he can only repeat “Hello”: “She said it again, ’Pretty bird,’ and this brain that works like it does now could feel that tiny little voice of mine ready to shape itself around those sounds.” Butler thus provides a foundation for both the recognizably human aspects of the tale and the animal point of view that defamiliarizes them for the reader. The initial encounter with his former wife exemplifies the method: “She knows that to pet a bird you don’t smooth his feathers down, you ruffle them. But of course she did that in my human life as well.”
She buys him and keeps him in a cage in his former den. The physical transformation of the narrator provides opportunity for comedy, while his more gradual psychological transformation provides...
(The entire section is 552 words.)