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How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

1948 words - 8 pages

Immigrants come to America, the revered City upon a Hill, with wide eyes and high hopes, eager to have their every dream and wild reverie fulfilled. Rarely, if ever, is this actually the case. A select few do achieve the stereotypical ‘rags to riches’ transformation – thus perpetuating the myth. The Garcia family from Julia Alvarez’s book How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, fall prey to this fairytale. They start off the tale well enough: the girls are treated like royalty, princesses of their Island home, but remained locked in their tower, also known as the walls of their family compound. The family is forced to flee their Dominican Republic paradise – which they affectionately refer to as simply, the Island – trading it instead for the cold, mean streets of American suburbs. After a brief acclimation period, during which the girls realize how much freedom is now available to them, they enthusiastically try to shed their Island roots and become true “American girls.” They throw themselves into the American lifestyle, but there is one slight snag in their plan: they, as a group, are unable to forget their Island heritage and upbringing, despite how hard they try to do so. The story of the Garcia girls is not a fairytale – not of the Disney variety anyway; it is the story of immigrants who do not make the miraculous transition from rags to riches, but from stifling social conventions to unabridged freedom too quickly, leaving them with nothing but confusion and unresolved questions of identity.
This bewilderment is not limited to just the girls either; the parents experience their fair share of perplexity at the chaos that is America. Unlike their offspring, Mr. and Mrs. Garcia work to retain and remember their Island roots. Indeed, Mr. Garcia is mocked by his daughters for his traditional mannerisms, teased for holding onto all he has ever known. His wife does not take the plunge into the American lifestyle either, although she flirts with the idea. For months, she tries to be like her stereotypical view of Americans and become an inventor. She carries a pen and notepad around with her, writing down ideas, obsessed with the idea that “there’s something they’ve missed” (138), and that she can beat the Americans at their own game and prove that she and her family do belong in the country. She channels the frustrations she has about the constant, unwarranted prejudice that she and her family face daily into her fixation, determined to think of something that natural-born Americans have not. Upon discovering that one of her ideas had been successfully patented by someone else, she acted like the “crazy people in movies” (140), causing her daughters to worry, wondering like only children can, about what it would be like if their mother ended up in a mental hospital. However, Mrs. Garcia rebounds nicely, but without her inventorial spark and her desire to prove the worthiness of her family. Instead, she gives up, deciding that it is no use...

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