Feed on

There were women around Jesus when He died, the two Marys. They couldn’t do anything for Him. But neither could the men, who had all run away.

Through this short story, the main character continuously struggles with the stigmas against her gender. She is seen as inferior because of her anatomy. While she aspires to remain true to her Catholic upbringing, she also fights with the guilt of leaving her Buddhist grandfather’s soul to wander. Her grandfather expects her to only follow what he tells her is correct and, when she cannot do so, she is left with the belief that taking care of her grandfather’s parrot will amend all she thinks she has done wrong against him.

‘You are a girl’, he said. ‘So it’s not possible for you to do it alone. Only a son can oversee the worship of his ancestors’ (111).

Hearing this from her grandfather as a child, she internalizes that there is not much she can do as a woman. Going to look at birds in the store with him, she would see him coo and sing to certain birds. Only the ones who waited for his voice before they started singing received his affection while the ones content with themselves received his coldness. In this way, he is showing that women are only preferred by men when they are ones that wait for their every word. He believes a woman should value a man’s word over her own and she should be happy when he shows her attention and calls her pretty. Going past the mother hens, he has no problem with them either because they are taking care of children which, to him, is the job of a woman. I noticed he did not sing to them, however. He only sang to the ones that were beautiful.

Like the mother hens, the protagonist takes on the nurturing role expected of women in taking care of Mr. Green. He, like her grandfather’s words, follows her into adulthood. The parrot symbolizes the lingering of her grandfather’s soul in her life. As his health deteriorates, she is slowly being freed from the old ways that she grew up with. Like a bird with clipped wings, she lives her life in captivity of what is expected of a woman. She internalizes that men have the fun picking up the birds while the women break their necks and cook them.

‘How foolish they sound. Chattering and yammering. All the women sound like that. You don’t want to grow up sounding like all these foolish women, do you?’ (115)

In this question from her grandfather, the message that is conveyed is that being a woman is something to be ashamed of. In the end, she does what she feels is her job as a woman. As Mr. Green is taken over with a sickness, she takes him out of his misery as a Vietnamese woman must.



Leave a Reply