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Butler, “The American Couple”

I really enjoy Butler’s stories. His stories always take me away from reality and plants me right smack in the middle of some other part of the world. Butler made a lot of interesting choices while writing.

The first point of interest is the fact, Butler, did not use a fairytale to be the conduit for his story. He used a different sort of avenue for his fantasy, television. The use of television is clever because it plays two parts.

The first part it plays is for the main character. I felt she desired romance. It is the one thing she mentions over and over. Her actions with wanting the flower and needing to see a building where a romantic film was shot is one example of how Butler used television to develop his character romantically.

The second part it played is in the machismos (Macho-ness) of Vinh and Frank. The fight scene was really cool to read. It reminded me of my brothers and how they would go out at sunset to play war games, or capture the flag. I loved how Butler gave Vinh, (this tightly controlled individual) some freedom to have fun, and be a boy again. It also parallels the romantic television model of a male fighting for his one true love. It is not lost on me that this was not why he was fighting, but Butler is able to use his own creative license as a twist for this parallel.

Butler makes another interesting choice when he creates in his main character the ability to tell us, the reader, what certain individual characters are thinking. He used this style, I believe, to demonstrate his characters ability of deep observance of all that is around her. Her ability allows us a very rare insight to another’s characters mind.

“This whole corridor to the fancy hotels should be done up right, he was thinking.”

“She’s looking for the prompt cards, you see. She’s forgotten her lines.”

I also appreciate that he gave the main character perspective into her-own personal self. She was aware of both the outside world and her internal thought process. This adds to the story, because she is not perfect and she is aware she is not. An example is her seeing the man kiss the anchor woman off camera. It is obvious from the way Butler wrote it that it was some sort of affair, but when his main character picks up on it, she does not understand why it was bad to say something.

“You take picture of you and iguana?” she asked. “Very cheap.”

This, I felt, was a great moment. Butler takes the already foreign sounding cadence and makes it even more foreign. This adds to the believability of the story, we feel, and hear that we are in some other country were the langue is not English.

Butler also used a lot of movement in his story such as, “He turned slightly toward these two people but not all the way. He was still angled more toward the balcony.” I loved that his characters were not stiff but moving, looking, hearing. They felt alive. I feel that body langue is critique when you want a character to feel real.

I loved the parallels that Butler drew when it came to his main character and Vihn, such as the game she plays with him on the beach, fishing for information. Then without her ever realizing it, he plays the same game with her when she wants to know his opinion of Frank and Eileen. I loved that she was clueless and irritated that he was not being forthright. I have experienced this in my own life, again adding to the believability of this story.

I also felt as I read that the story was, first about the narrator, but then changed to be about that husband. I know the number one rule in first person writing is the story is always about the narrator. Yet the use of the main character to give us, the read, insight into the minds of the others around her and her own detailed visual descriptions of things like the fight between Vihn and Frank, gives us the illusion of 3rd person narration.

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