Robert Olen Butler often creates first-person narrators who are far different from him in terms of nationality, gender, age, and so on. What are some of the techniques he uses to make these different voices authentic and believable?
The Vietnam War and its aftermath have affected many of Butler’s protagonists. Critic Maureen Ryan argues that Butler’s are among the most successful Vietnam books because he always subordinates the war story to larger, more complex themes: “in these books the challenges and lessons of the war only complement the main character’s life experiences.” Test Ryan’s idea by applying it to one or more of Butler’s protagonists.
Many of Butler’s works introduce mythic or supernatural elements into otherwise realistic narrative worlds. What are the effects of this combination of fact and fantasy?
Go to the Web site www.fsu.edu/butler and see how Butler created one of his stories from beginning to end. How does this Web site contribute to your understanding of Butler’s other works?
How does Butler reveal the nature of his first-person narrators? Do they simply tell us what kind of people they are, or do we learn about them in other ways as well?