You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.
-Dr. Seuss

Monday, January 27, 2014



1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel you read according to the elements of plot you've learned in past courses (exposition, inciting incident, etc.).  Explain how the narrative fulfills the author's purpose (based on your well-informed interpretation of same).

Dreaming In Cuban is a novel that is quite confusing and entertaining to read. It is written in the present, but often refers to the past and sometimes even seems like it is written in the past. It takes place in Cuba and is right around the time of the Cuban Revolution. Throughout the story we are taken back and forth to the life of Celia the grandmother who resides in Cuba, Lourdes her daughter who resides in Brooklyn with her husband Rufino and daughter Pilar. As Celia tells us about her life growing up, having an affair with a married Spaniard man, and raising her children we are also stuck in Pilar’s crazy teenage world. She is a teenager that enjoys art and is sick and tired of her home and her mom. She misses her grandma Celia so one day she decides to escape to Cuba alone. Among this chaos is the chaos of Lourdes (Pilar’s mom). She has recently lost her father and does not have good communication with her mother. She is depressed and a very demanding women. Her husband Rufino tries to soothe her, but it is beyond his control at that point. Lourdes is also unaware that her husband is having an affair with another women. In the novel we are presented with the Del Pino family and their struggles throughout life. We are introduce to Celia and Jorge the parents, Gustavo (Celia’s Spaniard lover), and the three children of Jorge and Celia: Felicia, Lourdes, and Javier. Felicia has three children: Ivanito, Milagro, and Luz. Lourdes and Rufino have Pilar. Last, but not least, Javier has a daughter. Throughout the novel the reader is taken on a journey of family, home, politics, and the revolution of Cuba and how each member copes with each other and these situations.

2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel. Avoid cliches.

The theme of this novel is Family and how fragile it can be when certain things are brought up. The family in the novel is torn apart by multiple ideas, opinions, things and people. Each member is an asset to the family, but that does not necessarily mean they are a good asset. When it comes to the Cuban revolution and past events or feelings this family is the first to blow up on each other. In the novel the reader is exposed to all of the events and decisions presented and how each character reacts to these type of situations.

3. Describe the author's tone. Include a minimum of three excerpts that illustrate your point(s).

The author’s tone ranges due to the fact that there is so many characters telling their story. Each character takes on a new tone throughput the novel. The most popular tones throughout the novel are: Melancholic, Intense, and Sentimental/Romantic.

Ex1) Sentimental/Romantic:  “Celia fingers the sheet of onion parchment in her pocket, reads the words again, one by one, like a blind women. Jorge’s letter arrived that morning, as if his prescience extended even to the irregular postal service between the united States and Cuba. Celia is astonished by the words, by the disquieting ardor of her husband’s last letters. They seemed written by a younger, more passionate Jorge, a man she never knew well. But his handwriting, an ornate script he learned in another century, revealed his decay. When he wrote his last missive, Jorge must have known he would die before she received it.”

Ex2) Melancholic: “Pilar her first grandchild, writes to her from Brooklyn in a Spanish that is no longer hers. She speaks the hard-edged lexicon of bygone tourist itchy to throw dice on green felt or asphalt. Pilar’s eyes, Celia fears, are no longer used to the compacted light of the tropics, where a morning hour can fill a mouth of days in the north, which receives only careless sheddings from the sun. She imagines her granddaughter pale, gliding through planes, malnourished and cold without the food of scarlet’s and greens.”

 Ex3) Pg.194 Sincere:
“I’ve come to tell you a few last things. About myself. About your mother. So you’ll understand.”
“I know too much already.”
“You haven’t even begun to understand, Lourdes.”
Jorge del Pino was silent for a long time.
“Your mother loved you,” he says finally.
… “After we were married, I left her with my mother and my sister. I knew what it would do to her. A part of me wanted to punish her. For the Spaniard. I tried to kill her, Lourdes. I wanted to kill her. I left on a long trip when you were born. I wanted to break her, may God forgive me.”

4. Describe a minimum of ten literary elements/techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the author's purpose, the text's theme and/or your sense of the tone. For each, please include textual support to help illustrate the point for your readers. (Please include edition and page numbers for easy reference.) 

1) Imagery: “Lourdes’s agility astounded Rufino. The heavier she got, the more supple her body became. Her legs looped and rotated like an acrobat’s, her neck swiveled with extra ball bearings. And her mouth. Lourdes’s mouth and tongue were like the mouths and tongues of a dozen experienced women. Rufino’s body ached from the exertions. His joints swelled like an arthritic’s. He begged his wife for a few nights’ peace but Lourdes’s peals only became more urgent, her glossy black eyes more importunate. Lourdes was reaching Rufino for something he could not give her, she wasn’t sure what.”

2) Flashback: Pg.121 “My sister was more sentimental than I am, so sometimes when she starts feeling sorry for mama I remind her of our ninth birthday party, when the entire fourth-grade class cam to our house on Palmas Street. Pg.122 “Then she blindfolded me again and I whipped the air with the brromstick until the piñata burst open, releasing long, gooey tentacles of raw egg. Eggs. Mama had filled the piñata with eggs. Everyone laughed and screamed…Milagro and I went to our rooms without saying anything to Ivanito or mama. We picked up bits of shell from our hair, looked at each other, and cried.”

3) Point of View: (Third-person) Pg.3 “Celia del Pino, equipped with binoculars and wearing her best housedress and drop pearl earrings, sits in her wicker swing guarding the north coast of Cuba.”
(First-Person) Pg.123 “I persuaded her to let us stay by ourselves in Havana instead of going to Abuela Celia’s house. After she left, Milagro and I packed our clothes in a duffel bag and looped the crane scarves around our necks.”

4) Exposition: Pg.162 “ That bastard Batista stole the country from us just when it seemed things could finally change. The U.S wants him in the palace. How else could he have pulled this off?”
Pg.151 “In the center of the ceiling affixed with yellowed tape, is January 1959, the first month of the revolution.

5) Allusion: Pg.146 “My favorite was the first line of Anna Karenina: Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
“Perfect, it is perfect!”
“Mr. Mikoyan would say, He’d clap his hands, happy with Tolstoy and my perfect spelling.”

6) Apostrophe: Pg.21 “Her father had been a fastidious man, impeccable, close-shaven, with razor-sharp creases pressed into his trousers. He took pride in never walking barefoot, even in his own home, and shuffled around in highly polished leather slippers to protect himself from microbios. The very word lit a fire in his eyes.”

7) Chiasmus: Pg.156
“Me he perdido muchas veces por el mar
con el oído lleno de flores recién cortadas,
con la lengua llena de amor y de agonía,
muchas veces me he perdido por el mar,
como me pierdo en el Corazón de algunos niños.”

8) Dialogue: Pg.168 “What are you talking about? Mom, it’s five in the morning. Just leave me alone, okay?”
“I called last night and you weren’t in.”
“I was out.”
“Out where? To your lover’s bed?”
“Out for a pastrami sandwich.”
“Liar! You never eat pastrami!”
“I’m hanging up now, Mom. Nice talking to you, too.”

9) Setting: 
Cuba, Pg.3 “Celia del Pino, equipped with binoculars and wearing her best housedress and drop pearl earrings, sits in her wicker swing guarding the north coast of Cuba…The neighborhood comitte has voted her little brick-and-cement house by the sea as the primary lookout for Santa Teresa del Mar.”
Brooklyn, NY Pg. 20 “She remember how after her father arrived to New York her appetite for sex and baked goods increased dramatically.”

10) Personification: pg.151 “Felicia imagines the mixture melting through Graciela’s frail scalp, penetrating the roots and bones of her skull until it eats her vicious brain like acid. Graciela cries out and pulls on the cap, hardened now like a helmet, but Felicia shouts and knocks Graciela’s glasses from her face.”

1. Describe two examples of direct characterization and two examples of indirect characterization.  Why does the author use both approaches, and to what end (i.e., what is your lasting impression of the character as a result)?

Pilar: Pg.168 “Pilar is like her grandmother, disdainful of rules, of religion, of everything meaningful. Neither of them shows respect for anyone, least of all themselves. Pilar is irresponsible, self-centered, a bad seed.”
Lourdes: Pg.136
Max likes Mom, though. He says she suffers from an “Imperious disposition.”
“You mean like she’s a frustrated tyrant?” I ask him.
“More like a bitch goddess,” he explains.

Pilar: Pg.23 “An amber eye, a delicate wrist with a silver-and-turquoise bracelet, eyebrows arched and thick as if inviting danger.”
Lourdes: Pg. 17 “Lourdes pins a short braid against her head, twist on a hairnet, and leaves a note for her daughter on the kitchen table. She wants Pilar at the bakery after school. Lourdes fired the Pakistani yesterday and she’ll be alone behind the counter today if she doesn’t get help.” “No excuses this time!!” “She crawls in her sharply slanted script.”

Pilar and Lourdes are by far my favorite characters. They are both so entertaining because they are such feisty and stubborn women. I enjoyed reading what they thought of each other and what others thought of them. After all you know how the saying goes “Like mother, like daughter.” The author made it really easy for the reader to grasp who the characters really were, because both the direct and indirect characterization matched. Throughout most of the novel Pilar is a rebel against what her mom has to say. She is stubborn and sassy. Lourdes on the other hand is similar, but yet so different. They are both very interesting characters, because they see no faults in their inner self’s. 

2. Does the author's syntax and/or diction change when s/he focuses on character?  How?  Example(s)?

When it comes to syntax and diction the author does enlighten us with a few options when it comes to certain characters. 

* Pilar and Lourdes’ syntax and diction is usually short, rude and unhealthy for both of them.
Ex1) Pg. 132 Last Christmas, Pilar gave her a book of essays on Cuba called A Revolutionary Society. The cover showed cheerful, clean-cut children gathered in front of a portrait of Che Guevara. Lourdes was incensed.
“Will you read it?” Pilar asked her.
“I don’t have to read it to know what’s in it! Lies, poisonous Communist lies!” Che Guevara’s face had set a violence quivering within her like a loose wire.
“Suit yourself,” Pilar shot back.
Lourdes snatched the volume from under the Christmas tree, took it to the bathroom, filled the tub with scalding water, and dropped it in.

Ex2) Pg.168
“I know someone is there with you,” Lourdes rasps. “Don’t lie to me.”
“Mom, not again. Please.”
“Tell me his name!” Lourdes squeezes the words out between her teeth, “Whore! Tell me his name!”
“What are you talking about? Mom, it’s five in the morning. Just leave me alone, okay?”
“I called last night and you weren’t in.”
“I was out.”
“Out where? To your lover’s bed?”
“Out for a pastrami sandwich.”
“Liar! You never eat pastrami!”
“I’m hanging up now, Mom. Nice talking to you, too.”

*Pilar curses once in a while when she speaks
Ex3) Pg.180 “A scrawny guy wearing a flannel shirt over his sweatpants counts my cash and pushes the bass at me. It’s a piece of furniture, a fucking huge piece of furniture.”

Ex4) Pg.140 “Shit. How did I get into this mess?”

3. Is the protagonist static or dynamic?  Flat or round?  Explain.

After reading this novel I believe that there is more than one protagonist, but the main protagonist is Celia del Pino. Celia is a dynamic and round character, because throughout the novel we are hearing about different experiences she had in her life. It seems like she is often in a distinct set of mind. There are changes that go along with her character whether it be her aging, the present moment struggles or her difficult past. Throughout the novel the reader is able to see the different aspects and traits that make Celia the character she is. 

4. After reading the book did you come away feeling like you'd met a person or read a character?  Analyze one textual example that illustrates your reaction. 

After reading the book I think that Pilar stood out to me the most, because of her youth and her actions. I feel like Pilar is a person I can find on the Righetti campus or on a college campus. The fact that Pilar is young and searching for who she is or wants to become makes me feel like she is someone I know. Throughout the novel we see that she has a strong sense of self. She is stubborn, feisty and rebellious. She is into art and painting and rock/punkish music. She is easily irritated by her mom and/or people who are trying to tell her what to do.

Ex) Pg.141 “…I take a medium-thick brush and paint black stick figures pulsing in the air around Liberty, thorny scars that look like barbed wire. I want to go all the way with this, to stop mucking around and do what I feel, so at the base of the statue I put my favorite punk rallying cry: I’M A MESS. And then carefully, very csrefully, I paint a safety pin through liberty’s nose.”

Pg.143 “At five in the morning, I got to my parents’ room. I want to warn her: Look, I wanted to do it straight but I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. Do you understand? …
“What’s wrong? What’s the matter?” Mom is suddenly awake, sitting upright.
“Nothing, mom. I only wanted…I couldn’t sleep.”

In these few paragraphs I found out that no matter how tough and rebellious Pilar tries to act, she is only human and she feels like anyone would. She know that this portrait is for her mom’s bakery. Pilar acts by instinct and makes is a terrible and shocking painting on purpose. Once she realizes how serious and important the painting is she regrets how she approached the painting. She knows that this time she has gone to far. She tries to warn her mother about it, but is a coward and could not let the words out. She is guilty and feels terribly. With this excerpt alone I am able to conclude that Pilar is a good person deep inside under her tough front. Her character sounds all too familiar to me.

1 comment:

  1. This literature analysis was very thorough and well done. The way you analyzed the book made me want to read it to see if I could see it as you did.