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A Literary Analysis on Mother Tongue By Demetria Martinez

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Maria and Jose Luis develop a friendship that slowly turns into a typical novella love affair. Through their relationship, both harassers are forced to confront the violence of their pasts?his at the hands of Salvadoran torturers who abducted him and murdered his fiance©, hers at the hands of a sexually abusive neighbor. Their story is told through several different voices. Here they are in a nutshell – first it starts with Maria as an older woman who is now relieving her memories of the summer Jose Luis entered her life.

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As Jose Luis gets introduced and we get to know him the story will shift to his and perspective of their situation, then it would shift back to present day Maria; and then the nineteen-year-old Maria. There are also other voices, including that of their son (also called Joss© Luis), as well as through newspaper articles, diary entries from the past, and poems. Martinez gives us a chance to really get a closer look into the bigger picture of the story because we get to here it from so many different voices.

That being said, we can also see that the novel contains four main characters and three 1st person narrators.

Maria, who is the principal narrator, is nineteen years old (as previously stated) at the story’s beginning. Through her friend Solaced, a fifty-year-old Mexican immigrant, she becomes involved in the “helping out immigrants” movement and meets Jose Luis, who back then was twenty-nine years old. Joss© Luis stays at Caseload’s house in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the summer of 1 982, and the majority of Mother Tongue’s narrative centers on this time period. The story unfolds mostly from Maria’s perspective as she, nearing forty, recounts her relationship with Joss© Luis.

Through a diary that Maria translates, this is how we also get to peak into to Joss© Lull’s true thoughts and feelings; not just what Maria THINKS are his true thoughts and feelings. Joss© Luis Jar. , narrates he fourth and final section of the novel, telling us of his and Maria’s trip to El Salvador to search for information about his father. Existing criticism on Mother Tongue has focused primarily on issues of voice, community, language, as well as the novel’s themes of violence, belonging solidarity, and group identity.

The first line of the novel that I used in the beginning of the paper, (written from Maria’s perspective) , really reflects Maria’s individualistic orientation as she mentions Joss© Lull’s nation only to distance him from his homeland. Neither Joss© Lull’s nor Maria’s country is named. It looks like right away Maria turns a issue that has everything to do with national identity (his and hers), and Joss© Lull’s membership in a targeted community, into a purely personal affair. Her reliance on singular personal just shows us how Maria understands ( or think she understands) herself and Joss© Luis.

Maria continues to stress her inability to understand either herself or Joss© Luis in relation to anything or anyone besides each other. Again, in her opening section she writes: “Before his arrival the chaos of my life had no axis about which to spin. Now I had a center” (Martinez, 4). It seems to me that Joss© Luis exists only in relation to Maria, and she only in relation to him. Later, in a moment of mistranslation, the lovers share their visions of II Salvador, his based on raw knowledge and hers on fantasies and ignorance: “I said, Joss© Luis, last night I dreamed was there, smelled bougainvillea.

He said, dreamed I was there too, mi amour, but it was something about white phosphorous, napalm” (Martinez, 42). You can see how Maria’s II Salvador is empty of people, full only of romantic ideas. Jose Lull’s image of El Salvador, in contrast, totally invokes manufactured weapons; violence. Maria’s “self-projection elides Jose Lull’s difference” and illustrates “how easy it is for the North American characters, including the big-hearted Marl, to consume a sensationalists, romanticizes, or demonic version of the Salvadoran or Chicane in their midst” (Lamas 2006, 361).

Mart Examiner- Constantly writes: “The main thrust of the narrative of Mother Tongue . Contain ally destabilize[s] the grounds for a fantasy of connectedness by emphasizing the ways in which [Maria’s] experience as a Mexican American and Joss© Lull’s experiences as a Salvadoran have created fundamentally efferent subjects” (Examiner-constantly 2001, 198). Similarly, Dali Candidate points out how Maria’s interactions with Joss© Luis present her false assumptions concerning the supposed “seamlessness of the Latino-Latin American connection” (Candidate 2004, 422).

So the continual misinterpretations of Joss© Luis and who he really is and has been through on Maria’s part really show how very far away her experiences as a middle-class, U. S. -born Chicane are from those of her Salvadoran lover. This tension and resistance continues throughout their relationship. While Maria attempts to separate Joss© Luis from his national context, she minimally distances herself from any community-based identity.

As Candidate and Debra Castillo point out, Maria “perceives herself as an inauthentic Latin subject” and expresses “I insecurity about her acculturated double identity as Latin and grinning” (Candidate 2004, 432; Castillo 1997, 13). When the novel opens, you will notice that Maria lacks any connection to a larger family, network, or com-unity. This is something I did not expect because usually traditional Hispanic families tend to have this trend of unity within the family and community.

Throughout the book Maria is living completely without any Emily or close friends (with the exception of Solaced; but Solaced is not really physically around her). Her mother died of cancer and her father abandoned the family when she was young. In addition to having no family, Maria only once mentions friends, who “quit calling” when they heard she had fallen in love: [My friends] knew wouldn’t come out of the house, the house I drew with crayons, a house of primary colors I called love [they] tried to tell me it was not real. To prove them wrong, I drew a keyhole on the front door and invited them to look through to the other side.

See for yourselves, I said. Martinez , 46) What I get from Maria’s use of the metaphor of a house illustrates her understanding of love as a domestic, private matter. Also, her offer to her friends indicates her concern with safety; as you can see she does not invite her friends inside, but asks them only to observe through a “keyhole. ” If we look another closer look at one of our other main characters, Joss© Luis, we see keep on seeing that he really isn’t content with Maria’s vision of him and continually attempts to correct her viewpoint, emphasizing that he is not unique and that he is only one of many.

Early in the narrative, he shares tit Marl poetry by Rogue Dalton and Caliber Algeria. The poem he shows her seems to speak to a history of collective struggle. But Maria just relates to the poetry only on an individual level: “all I could conclude was that his heart, in advance of his mind, was trying to make contact with me. Trying to say love you through the subversive valentines of great poets” (Martinez 27). You can see from here that she doesn’t really have a concern for the legacy of revolution and resistance that comes through these poems; she can interpret them only for what they may mean for her own life.

Despite Maria’s resistance, Jose Luis describes himself in relation to the community from which he came. When Maria opens Jose Lull’s diary in the beginning of Part 2 of the novel, she finds that her lover, like Solaced, relies on plural subjects and pronouns: “Me and my comparison were being shot at so we dived for cover. And when we were not dodging bullets, we were asking questions about who made and sold the bullets, who bought them, and why they always ended up in the hearts of poor people.

We tried to figure these things out, to use our minds, our reason. Me and my seminary classmates are people of the book. Martinez, 51) I feel that definitely identifies himself as a member of an oppressed group and also aligns himself with an entire class of oppressed people (“the poor”). In addition, Joss© Luis stresses the material basis of violence as he speaks about trade and capital, asking who made the bullets, who sold them, and why they were used against the poor.

But here’s the thing, although unlike Maria, Joss© Luis is TABLE to understand himself as a Salvadoran in relation to other immigrants in the U. S. , he still remains unTABLE to fully comprehend Maria’s Chicane identity. He identifies ere “belief that people can be made from scratch in the promised land” as “so American” and later even blames Maria with those responsible for the war in II Salvador. After Marl reads an article about the rape and murder of several U. S. Nuns in II Salvador, he tells Maria: “you don’t know what it’s like to suffer” (Martinez, 75).

Soon after Maria and Joss© Luis discuss the nuns’ murder, Maria finds a poem in his Bible. “Lamentation,” written by Joss© Lull’s murdered fiance©, Ana. The poem reads: When at last my man gets out to become a new man in North America, when he finds a woman to take the war out of him, she will cake love too man and a monster, she will rise from her bed, grenades ticking in her. (Martinez , 1 1 2) In the violent, climactic scene of the novel, which occurred later on in the book, this poem really came back to me and gave me an “AH HA” moment.

It just fit perfectly. It just so happened that during the main character sex encounter, Joss© Luis transforms into a monster that beats his North American lover, Maria. He literally went crazy (he confused her for the soldier that killed his wife) and started beating her right after they made love in the bed. Through the violence that she suffers t his hands, Maria relates both her lover and herself to the real communication that was missing in their lives and at that point has a revelation.

Whereas before once she was unTABLE to identify his features as having the markers of one nation or ethnicity, when Joss© Luis lapsed into the trance, Maria sees his country and his history for the first time: “And in his eyes could see people running and dropping, flames and plumes of smoke, processions of women holding photographs of their children, telephone poles falling, bridges flying to pieces” (Martinez , 100). Maria does not see an individual depiction of grief or the tragedy of one woman or man; rather she sees the destruction of an entire community.

This scene indicates Maria’s newfound ability to connect what she sees in Joss© Lull’s eyes to his experiences. She tells her son, “Your father and his friends had handed their lives over to the cause of stopping the war and in the end, they could not even flee from IEEE’ (100). She understands now that war is not something that she can take out of a/her man, but something that really destroys entire communities and that can only be confronted on a large scale.

Although the ovule’s dominant themes?war, sex, violence, voice, and memory played important roles, this sense of awareness really provided the healing in which both characters formed a final union in. Its clear to say that this poem (which Martinez placed In by 2/3rd of the book) takes on an important shift in the development of the story and its characters. The beginning of the novel described how characters invoke or fail to invoke community-based identities.

Although Joss© Luis turns into a monster and transfers his War to Maria’s body, the explosion that Maria experiences is not a physical one, but a psychological one. Lamas notes that when Maria is abused while her neighbor watches scenes from the Vietnam War on television, the narrative creates a “crucial nexus between foreign and domestic violence” (Lamas 2005, 367). I would like to suggest that what is most powerful is the linking of Maria’s war with Jose Lull’s war and wars around the world because it allowed Maria to then be TABLE to link her own abuse with the abuse of others.

She then realizes she is not alone. As the novel progresses, Jose Luis and Maria drift apart. He ends up going back to El Salvador and never heard from again, leaving her pregnant with ere first child, a baby boy, which she named Jose Luis JAR. Twenty years later her son and her make a trip to El Salvador in search for him; or his body with no prevail. And yet she still gained something in return… When they returned to back to the U. S. Maria became involved in local activism, echoing Solaced and Jose Luis.

Moreover, Maria then incorporates her multiple identities?as a mother, a Chicane, a survivor of sexual abuse, and a U. S. Citizen?in her social-justice work. She started to participate in a letter-writing campaigns, asking the Salvadoran government to allow forensic experts to document the extent of the war’s atrocities. So it seems: common itty-based activism became a way to link individual experiences of trauma to one another in a struggle to end violence across nations.

Cite this A Literary Analysis on Mother Tongue By Demetria Martinez

A Literary Analysis on Mother Tongue By Demetria Martinez. (2018, Feb 03). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/essay-a-literary-analysis-on-mother-tongue-by-demetria-martinez-how-to/

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