Butler uses the setting of the bird market and cages with canaries to develop the theme of gender roles in traditional Vietnamese culture. The protagonist’s grandfather had rather patriarchic views regarding gender roles as he believed that females had a specific place in the society or rather their households. He believed that women were unable to worship ancestors because it was just “not possible” (Butler par. 8).
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He also showed some disrespect calling women foolish. It is noteworthy that the old man loved his granddaughter. In order to illustrate and enhance the idea, Butler describes the old man’s behavior in a bird market. He always comes to the place where canaries are sold. He seems to love them, and he even sings with them. He does not show disrespect but truly enjoys spending time and singing with these birds. However, he believes that a cage is a good place for them, and singing is an appropriate (or even the only suitable) activity for them. Likewise, the man spends time with his granddaughter, who loves him and tries to support him.
He does not have grandsons, so he has to “sing” with his granddaughter. He accepts her love, but he is also sure that she has to perform a certain role and will eventually start “sounding like all these foolish women” (par. 31). Many Vietnamese women have to live in an environment similar to canaries’ cages. They live and can even have some fun singing and looking at people they like. Nevertheless, they will never leave the cage and will be confined to the role of a beautiful singing and pleasing creature. Butler manages to create a bright metaphor when depicting the protagonist’s visit to the bird market as the parallel between the role of a Vietnamese female in the patriarchal context, and a caged bird is apparent.
Butler, Olen. “Mr. Green.” DeAnza College. 2019. Web.