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Robert Olen Butler’s “Love” concerns a man questioning his identity as a Vietnamese man in American society as he copes with his wife’s coquettish behavior. In Vietnam, he was able to use his abilities as a spy to essentially wipe out any man who tried pursuing his wife. However, in America, he discovered his small stature provided him with a disadvantage during his expeditions. The narrator began experiencing insecurity and labeled himself as a wimp, though slyly tactical with his warnings to his wife’s pursuers. I think Butler did a phenomenal job identifying Napoleon Bonaparte as a parallel to the main character. It makes sense that Napoleon, a tiny man who also planned strategically against enemies, would serve as an idol for our tiny narrator.

One of the most significant quotes in this story is when the narrator says,

But these men were warned. And some of them never showed up again after they ignored the warnings,”

 

suggesting the governing nature he had over his wife and her actions. Although he does not directly state what happens to the men in pursuit of his wife, foul play is implied, and Butler’s choice to shorten and break apart the syntax acts as a literary device suggesting urgency or a lack of control.

I would enjoy a rendition of this story told from the perspective of the wife. Although I’m aware the narrator believes she has a “wandering eye,” he never explicitly states that she has taken up any of her pursuers. It would be interesting to see the wife’s perspective as opposed to the narrator due to the unreliability of his character; he’s insecure and untrusting. Is there anything he’s fabricating? Is the wife aware that her husband is responsible for the disappearances of her pursuers? Or does she even notice that the men are gone?

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