Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 333
None of the characters in "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot" are given a name. The crux of Robert Olen Butler's story lies in the relationship between the husband, who is now a bird, and his wife. The husband is described as "a yellow-nape Amazon, a handsome bird." He narrates the story, filtering it through the perspective of a bird as well as an ex-lover. He is defined by a duality throughout the story. He expresses both incredible love for his wife and an obsessive jealousy.
As a man, the husband fixated on minor details, terrified that they were signs of infidelity. His paranoia grew to the point where he stalks his wife's coworker and accidentally falls out of a tree to his death while trying to peak through his window. What he dreaded came to pass. Now a widow, his wife is free to date other men.
When she greets him as a parrot at the pet shop, he is first happy, then wrathful after spotting her company, "a guy that looked like a meat packer, big in the chest and thick with hair." Every character that follows is an object of the husband's jealousy.
The wife is kind to her bird husband. She says hello, buys him a large cage with tons of toys, and even cries in worry when he hurts himself. The fact that she is sleeping with other men torments the husband, but her ignorance is understandable as, just like when he was a man, he does not have the capacity to communicate with her. The rest of the characters are one-note figures that serve only to explore the husband's insecurities.
Central character list:
Objects of Jealousy
- "Meat Packer" Boyfriend
- Pet Shop Clerk
- New Man in Shipping
- "Georgia Accent" Boyfriend
- "Cracker" Boyfriend
- Blue-front Amazon: the husband did not pursue a romance with the ladybird because she became affectionate with a cockatoo named Gordo. The husband claims that he "knew she'd break [his] heart."