A friend who has long since gotten out of the literary scholarship racket was once, briefly, quite intent on writing a dissertation entitled “Parrots, Pirates, and Prostheses.” I have a vague recollection that the argument was to involve something about how pirates seem often to lose hands, legs, and eyes, and that along with their inanimate prosthetics (wooden legs, hooks, eye patches – if, indeed, eye patches count), they also have animate ones like parrots and monkeys. I am not quite sure where this argument was going. There was, however, an excellent plan to, at the defense of this unwritten dissertation, have a parrot, on the shoulder of the writer, declaim the defense.
Though this dissertation (sadly) remains unwritten, it did generate a list of parrot books. Everyone’s favorite genre! Behold:
- Flaubert’s A Simple Heart
- Kate Chopin’s The Awakening
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (Scrooge recalls Crusoe’s Poll in the first stave)
- Flaubert’s Parrot, by Julian Barnes
- Virgina Woolf’s The Widow and the Parrot (this fable-like tale has been published as an illustrated children’s book)
- Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (Cap’n Flint)
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne (parrot hunting!)
- Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (Aunt March has a parrot who tells Laurie, “Go Away. No boys allowed here.”)
- Gertrude Stein’s “The Good Anna” in Three Lives briefly features a parrot.
- Saki’s story “The Remoulding of Groby Lington”
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (which features a haunting scene of a parrot on fire)
- Willa Cather’s beautiful Shadows on the Rock (Captain Pondaven’s African parrot Coco, who sings songs and drinks brandy in warm water)
- Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop (at least, I remember vaguely)