Analysis and interpretation of Crickets In the short story Crickets by Robert Olen Butler, we are introduced to the main character of the short story, Ted. Ted is not his real name, but a nickname that was given to him by his coworkers at the refinery where he works. He does not particularly like his nickname, but he does not hate it either. His real name is Thieu just like the former president of the Republic of Vietnam. He wasn’t named after the president though; his mother named him after his dead uncle.
Thieu grew up in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, but later fled to the U. S. He witnessed the fall of Saigon in 1975 – and that was when he decided to fight against the North. The north was communistic, and Thieu was throwing rocks at the tanks driving through the streets of Saigon. Because of the situation in Vietnam, Thieu and his wife fled to the U. S. in hope of a better life. They ended up in Louisiana just like many other refugees from Vietnam. He works at the refinery and has been working there for more than a decade.
He is considered the best chemical engineer of the refinery, even though he doesn’t always feel that his coworkers give him the right or appropriate amount of recognition, which he (in his own opinion) knows that he deserves. He likes his job at the refinery despite his coworkers giving him a American nickname and only using that. Thieu believes that it’s probably because they don’t like the fact that he is from Vietnam where American troops have just been fighting in a war against his fellow-countrymen. Thieu doesn’t believe in the values of the Northern regime, which is also his reason for fleeing to the U.
S. Thieu’s wife has, while living in America, given birth to their first and only son. The name of his son is perhaps the most non-Vietnamese name that they could find, Bill. Bill is ten years old, and is: “[…] the product of the first night my wife and I spent in Lake Charles, in a cheap motel with the sky outside red from the refineries. ” (p. 25, l. 27-28). Bill is a very typical ten year-old, American boy. Like many other young boys he does not always think that his father is the coolest person to hang out with, and when Thieu propose the idea of them doing something together he answers with : “” Sure, Pop. ” He said, though there was a certain suspicion in his voice, like he didn’t trust me on the subject of fun. ” (p. 26, l. 5-6). He probably reacts in this way because he would much rather sit in front of the television, watching cartoons which has superheroes, who are fighting the battle of good vs. evil instead. Thieu and Bills relationship to one another looks very ordinary from an outside perspective, but it is actually quite complex from an inside perspective. When Bill says goodbye to his father in the morning he is doing it in a very ‘ Louisianic’ way: “ Have a good day, y’all. (p. 25, l. 30) – you can almost hear the southern accent when you read it. And when Thieu says goodbye to him in Vietnamese he just giggles like it’s a joke. It is clear that Thieu wants Bill to learn Vietnamese because at the moment he only speaks English; he is an American and Thieu and his wife are Vietnamese and to Thieu this is creating some sort of ‘ cleft’ between them that is making it harder for them to bond like father and son. Thieu wants to teach Bill one of the games that he used to play as a child. It involves catching crickets and then have them fight each other.
But when they go ‘ hunting’ for these crickets Thieu realizes that his son and himself has completely different values and that they’re obviously different from one another. For a brief while Thieu believes that he has his son interested in his game. The game involves catching crickets, either charcoal or fire crickets. When they are out in the wild to catch these crickets his son’s Americanization shines through. He does not want to touch the crickets that he finds, like Thieu did when he was a child. So Thieu has to pick them up for him.
And it only goes downhill from there. Bill worries more about getting his new Reebok sneakers dirty than having fun and playing with his father – and he only worries about if the mother can get them clean again. Thieu is obviously disappointed. He is not disappointed because of the sons lack of interest, but rather because he has not been able to give his own son some Vietnamese ballast, it seems like he has no idea where his parents are from or what they have gone through for him. It might be because he is only ten years old.
The title Crickets represents the two types of crickets, charcoal and fire, which represents the two different civilization that Thieu and Bill are part of. Just like when Thieu was a child, his son and himself they keep crickets in matchboxes and kept them agitated by continuous poking and flicking. This resulted in them fighting each other to death. The charcoal crickets represent the U. S. : They’re large and strong, but can easily become confused – and he makes them appear rather unintelligent. The fire crickets on the other hand represent Vietnam, or perhaps Asia in general.
They’re not particularly strong or big like the charcoal crickets, but they’re smarter and faster than them – just like Thieu is smaller than his fellow American coworkers, but he’s smarter than them. When these two different crickets aren’t agitated they can live in peace, but when they’re constantly agitated at one another they’ll end up fighting, and it will often end with someone dying. Thieu has indeed achieved TheAmerican Dream. He has moved to a better place and he has shaped/created his own future withhard workand determination.
But while achieving this has he lost some of the Vietnamese values from his upbrining in the Mekong Delta? Perhaps. His son is one-hundred percent American in the way he dress and act; he only speaks English and this bothers Thieu to some extent. But is that alright, shouldn’t he be happy that his son does not have to go through the same that he did – one might wonder. Thieu wants to relive his Vietnamesechildhood‘ through’ the son, but he does not seem to succeed, probably because the son is too American to understand or appreciate these values.