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In “The American Couple,” Butler is able to convey similarities between two very different cultures through the eyes of the narrator, Gabrielle. The story is set in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, which is a refreshing and unexpected change from Butler’s usual choice of setting, Louisiana or Vietnam. Although the narrator and her husband, Vinh, are originally from Vietnam and now live in New Orleans, Louisiana, the locations are rarely mentioned. Butler chooses not to describe his character’s current or past homes, because they are on a vacation and usually, the purpose of a vacation is to forget one’s worries that tend to be associated with one’s home. Gabrielle and her sister were on a game show and they won the vacation to Puerto Vallarta, which is near the famous movie location of Night of the Iguana, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Interestingly, three American couples at Puerto Vallarta won their vacations on similar game shows. The narrator prides herself on being extremely observant of her surroundings. Her husband does not think that having great observation skills is a worthy talent. Butler creates irony through Gabrielle and Vinh’s opposing views of perception and observation. Vihn is an excellent business man, therefore, he must be able to read his clients emotions in order to serve them well and yet, he dislikes doing it. Vinh sees observation as a natural instinct. He fought in the Vietnam War and he is unable to find solace in his wife because she has fully embraced fluffy, American culture. He has seen death, he probably been the cause of it, in some cases. Once a person has seen the horrors of war, they usually suffer from flashbacks and emotional disorders. The turning point for Gabrielle is when she watches her husband fighting with Frank. She realizes that her husband has seen to much war to simply forget, or run away from his past. War is part of who he is and she knows that she must stop trying to force the American ideals on him. Eileen is a character foil for Gabrielle because Gabrielle recognizes the same disconnect in her marriage that is in Frank and Eileen’s marriage. By the end of the story, Gabrielle wakes up from her “American dream” and Eileen is content to go on dreaming. Butler depicts the effects of war on these two couples and their struggle with retaining a sense of normalcy.

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