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Jealousy is a bitter and unhappy feeling in response to another person's advantages, possessions, or luck. Jealousy can be categorized as either passive or aggressive. Passive jealousy is limited to the boundaries of one's mind, whereas aggressive jealousy translates into physical action. In the short stories "Husband Returns in Form of Parrot" and "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," Robert Olen Butler and Raymond Carver focus on different forms of jealousy.
Through the perspective of a parrot, Butler focuses on passive jealousy. When the parrot sees his human wife with a man, he explains, "I flap my wings and I squawk and I fluff up and I slick down and I throw seed and I attack that dangly toy as if it was the guy's balls, but it does no good. It never did any good in the other life either, the thrashing around I did by myself" (768). As a parrot, he is not able to express his jealousy directly just the same as when he was a human being. He keeps his jealously within himself, which makes him passive. As a parrot, he can only insult the man with limited vocabulary. The parrot states, "'Cracker.' He even flipped his head back a little at this in surprise. He'd been called that before to his face, I realized. I said it again, 'Cracker'" (769). Coming from a parrot, the name-calling is not taken seriously. Thus, his jealousy is harmless and rather passive. As a result, his jealousy remains unrecognized. He states, "I can never say what is in my heart to her. Never" (770). As a parrot, his limited words inhibit him from expressing his thoughts. In the same way, it can be interpreted and implied that he had been inarticulate as a human being.
Through the character Ed, Carver focuses on aggressive jealousy. Ed expresses his affection for Terri through violence. When Terri and Mel are together, Ed's jealousy causes him to experience emotional instability. Terri states, "'When I left, he drank rat poison'" (743). For Ed to see Terri with another man breaks his heart. Clearly, Ed is madly in love with Terri to go as far as to drink rat poison and to commit suicide. Mel, however, interprets Ed's violent actions differently. Mel recalls, "'He took this twenty-two pistol he'd bought to threaten Terri and me with. Oh, I'm serious, the man was always threatening. You should have seen the way we lived in those days. Like fugitives'" (743). Mel undoubtedly sees Ed as a threatening person. Nevertheless, Mel's inability to see others as more than just good or bad inhibits him from thinking before judging. Ed deeply cares for Terri since he goes through the trouble to treat Mel and Terri "like fugitives." His passion inspires this extreme act of jealousy. Regardless, Ed's intense emotion eventually causes his deterioration. Terri concludes, "'He shot himself in the mouth in his room'" (744). Ed feels overwhelmed by his feelings of envy that they become unbearable, which also leads him to the extremity of shooting himself.
As exhibited in the two short stories, Butler and Carver present jealousy in contrary forms. Butler's form of jealousy is passive, but Carver's form of jealousy is aggressive. Nevertheless, both are misunderstood in their different forms of jealousy. Ultimately, the two extremities of expressing too much and expressing too little lead to the misinterpretation of their true intentions.