This story had a lot of meaning to me. This was about a man who dealt with the many struggles of being a Southern Migrant worker in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It was considered a landmark of Chicano Literature. This story speaks of a man who is reflecting back on a years’ time.
The author not only wrote the novel, but he lived it as well. Tomas Rivera was also a migrant farm worker when he was growing up, but as he grew older he followed through with education and was rewarded with a higher lifestyle. He tries to project the reality of these workers lives and the many hardships that follow to his readers as he takes them through his memories of experiences, whether great or terrifying.
The theme of family was strongly shown throughout this story. It was based on the young boy’s family, and himself, but the book originally was meant to show readers of the struggles of the community as a whole. Another theme that was addressed was education. Education was shown to be of great importance in this novel. Reason being, education is needed to succeed and progress. The father constantly nagged his son about obtaining a higher education so he could get a more rewarding job as a result. Having an education would get these minority migrant workers off of the fields and into a high paying career. A third theme may have dealt with religion. He often questioned his beliefs of God when his family was getting sick of exhaustion from working on the farm. He kept asking his mother why she kept relying on religion and candles to relieve his family from illness.
He also questioned God’s intentions whenever the innocent were always the ones becoming sick, the ones who never did harm to anyone. What I found to be ironic was in the short story, “The little burnt victims”. To summarize this short story, I am going to focus on the Boxing Gloves. Due to the fact that the owners of the fields did not allow children to be nearby while their parents were working, most of the children were left at home, unattended. Their parents had bought them boxing gloves so they could “pretend box” at home. One day while the parents were working, a fire had started in their home. This was a result of rubbing alcohol on the gloves just the way the movies showed it. In the end, the young children did not survive, the only thing that did were these boxing gloves. I find this to be ironic because boxing gloves are supposed to protect you during a fight, but they could not protect the children from the fire. This to me, just shows that our world is more focused on material objects more than actual people.
Another short story that shows the truth about how these owners of the fields felt about their workers and children, just go to show their profits meant more than actual people. In another short story, the owner did not want the children drinking water when they should have been working. The owner wanted to scare a young boy away from the water, and fired a shot that ended up killing the boy. In the end I felt that the owner of the field got what he deserved in return by ultimately going crazy. How could someone do that, over a small drink of water from dehydrated and exhausted workers?!
As a coming of age novel, I think that the main character in this reading dealt with many struggles, not only with himself as self identity, but with understanding what was really going on around him in this years’ time. This book doesn’t just focus on one person’s issues though; all of these short stories reflect the lives of the entire community of southern migrant workers. He struggles with his own identity, and also struggles with getting a well-educated background. His father pushes him to have a better life and to complete school, but even this becomes a challenge when other children harass him about being of a different heritage, just because he was Mexican.
Another struggle that he faces deals with his religion. This man came from a religious family, but once people he cared about fell ill, he started questioning about God. This upset his family, but he constantly wondered how God could ever let horrible things happen to people who were unbelievably innocent or young. He watched people he loved struggle with deathly illnesses, and felt helpless because he could not do anything to help them.
This story was a very powerful one for me. It took me right with him through his struggles as if I was holding his hand. In the end though he overcomes these struggles and regains faith and identity.