In Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot by Robert Olen Butler, the cage symbolizes the narrators inability to get out of his relationship with his wife.
Everything from its placement to its size represents an aspect of his mental barriers. As a human, he knew that his wife was unfaithful. However, the small moments of love he felt trapped him in the relationship. He says “My cage sits in the den.
My pool table is gone and the cage is sitting in that space and if I come all the way down to one end of my perch I can see through the door and down the back hallway to the master bedroom. When she keeps the bedroom door open I can see the space at the foot of the bed but not the bed itself. That I can sense to the left, just out of sight. I watch the men go in and I hear the sounds but I can’t quite see. And they drive me crazy.” He is stuck in between his wife and freedom. He is unable to physically see the sin that would drive him away from her.
Although he already knows his wife is cheating on him, he needs to see it to accept it. In bird form, it is the same. He can see that his wife is bringing in all these different men into what used to be their bedroom, but he can’t quite see them in the act, which drives him just as crazy as it did when he was a human. And then just opposite he can see the freedom he deserve in the sky but he can not reach it as there is a thin barrier between him and the sky. Even at the first mention of the cage, the narrator notes how a much too friendly man convinced his wife to get.
This hints that the husband may feel the other men are what have put him in this unescapable position. When he finally witnesses his wifes infidelity, both as a man and a parrot, he dies. As a man, accidentally, but as a bird he decides to kill himself after seeing what he’d been longing to see for so long.
The cage symbolizes the difficulty the man has leaving his wife no matter what she does and plays into the the conflicting theme of love vs freedom.