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Posted April 21, 2004
Life of Poverty is a Cycle
The focus of the novel Under the Feet of Jesus is around the plight of the migrant worker¿s life. A girl named Estrella is the protagonist. She and her family are poor Mexican immigrants, struggling to keep a few dollars in their pockets and keep themselves from being totally destitute. There are several cyclical symbols in this novel, most notably the cycle of poverty among the migrant workers, Estrella¿s family in particular. The migrant workers¿ lives depend on the seasons, the constant cycle of the year. They also move homes often, depending on the harvests in need at certain times of the year. Their lives are a cycle of work as well as the generational cycle of poverty. Estrella and her step-father Perfecto are so different in their personalities and ages, but are both bound by the same fate. Perfecto is very old, past seventy and has lived as a migrant worker and is nearing the end of his life. Estrella is young, only thirteen and is just beginning her life. The cycle of their lives, generation after generation continue to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors by becoming migrant workers, because they cannot rise above poverty. For the migrant workers, life forces children like Estrella to mature faster than they would ordinarily. She must help her mother care for the four other children. Estrella is very young and has to take on the burden of many responsibilities to help her mother and Perfecto. Perfecto is from another generation and had a previous marriage many years earlier. He is getting old and does not want the burden of all these extra children who are not even his. ¿Perfecto wanted to load up his tools, a few blankets, some peaches. He couldn¿t tell whether it was love or simply fear that held him back¿ (162). He contemplates leaving Petra and her family to escape the burden that they have placed on him. Perfecto has never gotten out of the migrant worker cycle in his lifetime and he sees a pregnant Petra with her five children and knows the cycle will continue. The multiple generations between Perfecto and Estrella has had no difference on their financial status. Perfecto is as poor now as he was when he was young, and Estrella and her family are as poor as he is, and probably always will be. Though many years have gone by with these three generations, there does not seem to be any change in their financial situation. ¿Morning, noon, or night, four or fourteen or forty it was all the same¿ (53). Estrella thinks about how at any age this cycle of work will continue until she dies, and then start all over again with a new generation. Symbolism abounds within this novel and the reader is not told whether or not Estrella¿s family escapes this poverty, although the conclusion has a double meaning, one of sadness or hope depending on how you perceive it. The cycle of the migrant worker¿s difficult life is vividly displayed by Viramontes using poignant, descriptive language.
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Posted June 13, 2009
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