Written by Robert Olen Butler, Mr Green is a fascinating short story that talks of a girl who had been subjected to the idea that men are higher ranked than women are. She grew under the care of her grandfather who practiced the worship of his ancestors. Being a girl, she could not participate in this worship services. Later, on maturity, she realizes that a change is inevitable and women could be equally powerful as men.
Many themes appear in the story. For instance, the individual and community, gender identity, among others, but the latter stands out clear. In Mr Green, Butler develops the theme of gender identity through the use of minor character like the narrator’s Mother. She is depicted as a woman who is religious since she is among those who have changed their style of worshipping from traditional based to Buddhism, she does not lean on to what her ancestors did. She portrays the personalities of other characters.
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For instance, according to Butler, she makes the narrator feel much important even after being brought up under the care of one who did not value her. She makes the girl appear proud when she keeps on mentioning her mother. The mother is also depicted as loving and journey oriented. Butler uses this character to show how much the mother loved not only her daughter, but also the grandfather as seen in the following quote. “I would visit him (grandfather) him in his room with my mother…” (Butler 26). In addition, the narrator’s father finds the narrator and her mother at the airport. She is much interested with the people around the place with cameras.
This shows the value attached to the girl by her mother because she sacrifices to take her to new and interesting places like the airport. “But finally, my mother finishes cutting vegetables…” (Butler 23). However, a minor character, Butler portrays her as a servant and a caretaker of her family. Here, she is playing the role of a caring mother showing how mothers ought to behave in the society. The narrator to show the character of being virtuous uses the mother. For instance, the girl says, “I wanted very much to be like to be like my mother…” (Butler 26). This is a character that Buddhist families emulate and teach others.
She has two Vietnamese friends and other women of her age. Butler uses this character to show how, though a minor character, she plays a major role as a religious person, in the Buddhist family at large. She is more concerned with her daughter when she attains an age when all girls ought to be married. She is worried of her 34-year old daughter who ought to have married a Vietnamese boy. This minor character shows how their society values and adores the act of marriage. Still in the theme of gender identity, the narrator’s mother has been given the responsibility of monitoring the whereabouts of her daughter.
In conclusion, through the minor character; mother, Butler has managed to develop clearly the theme of gender identity. It stands out that, character as an element of literature, carries with it a good deal of lessons. Both major and minor characters can be employed in theme development. In this case, Butler has expounded the theme of gender identity using the minor character – the mother. He uses her to portray not only her personality, but also of others like the girl, whose pride comes out through the mother. She is depicted as a representative of the present practices, one who ignores the beliefs of her ancestors and acquires new ones, which hold that once a person dies, he/she has no power to haunt the living.
Butler, Robert. “Mr.
Green: The Art of the Story.” New York: Heinemann Publishers, (1999).