Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The physical transformation of the narrator provides considerable opportunity for comedy, while his more gradual psychological transformation provides the primary thematic elements. As in Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung (1915; The Metamorphosis, 1936), one of the few close literary analogs to Butler’s tale, the reader is led to consider whether the transformation is really as profound as one might initially suppose. The parrot’s response in the opening scene to watching the clerk in the pet store, who took his former wife aside and “made his voice go much too soft when he was doing the selling job,” is similar to the vengeful rage the cuckolded human had felt: “I’d missed a lot of chances to take a bite out of this clerk in my stay at the shop and I regretted that suddenly.” Similarly, he waits for the lover “to draw close enough for me to take off the tip of his finger.”

The parrot and his widow—the only characters directly quoted in the story—exchange “Hello” on the first page, and their dialogue remains at the level of what might realistically be exchanged between bird and owner. However, the story suggests that even this is an improvement over their communication during his human existence. In the only instance the story provides from their marriage, the narrator never speaks at all after his wife opens a conversation with a series of references—perhaps calculated—to a male coworker: “right after the...

(The entire section is 474 words.)