The male and female roles as it relates to the main character and supporting characters in this story are defined by moral duties in the spiritual realm as well as in the present worldly realm. Males are highly revered, as they serve as patriarchs and teachers of traditional family values and lessons in spiritual prosperity; this is true of the grandfather and in part Mr. Green. Families are dependent on the prayers and devotions offered by surviving male members who assume hierarchy so that they may bring life and salvation to current living loved ones and to the souls of ancestors. In “Mr. Green” this is obligated as the primary duty of a male because “only a son can oversee the worship of his ancestors” (16). Contrary to males, females are devalued for their offerings of prayer and are subjected to grim tasks. The female main character is subject to conflict because of her inability to protect the souls of her ancestors based on her gender. Her grandfather provides lessons of the spirit world, he states “the souls of our ancestors continue to need love and attention and devotion…but if we neglect the souls of our ancestors, they will become lost and lonely and will wander around in the kingdom of the dead” (15). The girl is disheartened by this lesson and is eager to assume the obligations of prayer and devotion, she states “I wanted to protect my grandfather’s soul, but it wasn’t in my power. I was a girl” (16). The grandfather’s lesson of the spirit world conveys “only a son can oversee the worship of his ancestors” (16). The girl is exposed to frequent discrimination of the female gender that persists onward into her adult life.
Gender discrimination is not only applicable to the male and female characters in this story but is also applied to the characteristics of the birds. In their family’s travels the girl describes their trip to Ham Nghi, “the place with the birds.” Her grandfather is described as taking great joy in visiting and singing with the birds, although when “[he] came near the blackbirds and they were gabbling among their own company….he growled at them ‘you’re just a bunch of old women,’ ” and moved on (17). The girl describes crowded cages of sparrows that “were always in motion, hopping and fluffing up and shaking themselves like my vain friends”(18). She states “I was a quiet little girl, but I, too, would sometimes look at myself in a mirror and primp and puff myself up, even as in public I tried to hold myself apart a little bit from the other girls”(18). Because the blackbirds independently entertain and groom themselves and do not necessitate the needs of a male, it is implied that they are simply old women. However, when the girl and her grandfather come across a parrot digging for mites and grooming himself, her grandfather states “that [parrot] will still be alive and speaking to someone when you have grown to be an old woman and have died and are buried in the ground” (19). It is implied that male parrots are intellectual and they are to be taken as pets. Female blackbirds and sparrows are chatty and vain, swooning mindlessly about, so they are to be killed and prepared for as a meal; this grim task is a woman’s responsibility. Why would a man soil his hands with blood of a gender lesser than he? The girl is taught to snap the necks of the sparrows, pluck their feathers, roast them, and then serve them. Men