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Theme Analysis Of American History By Judith Ortiz Cofer

729 words - 3 pages

“American History” by Judith Ortiz Cofer is a short story set in 1963. Back then, prejudice and segregation amongst different races were still in full bloom. The protagonist, Elena is a fourteen year old girl of Puerto Rican descent who lives in Paterson, New Jersey along with her parents. Elena’s neighbor, Eugene, is a boy of European descent whom Elena likes. The story takes place the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. While the people in Elena’s community are shocked by President Kennedy’s death, Elena is dealing with her own tragedy: being shunned by Eugene’s family. Ortiz Cofer’s story examines the theme of tragedy, personal and collective, and revolves around the dreams of Elena which can be shattered in one shocking moment.

When Elena knocked on Eugene’s green door, she had a lot of hope to study with Eugene and getting to know him better. But when Eugene’s mom answered the door, she told Elena to leave and that she was not welcome in Eugene’s home. “‘What’s wrong? Didn’t you hear what I said?’ She seemed very angry, and I finally snapped out of my trance. I turned away from the green door and heard her close it gently.” (pg. ) Elena’s personal tragedy of getting rejected by Eugene’s mom resonates more dynamically than the assassination of President Kennedy because Elena experiences the rejection directly and the event gets imprinted into the audiences’ mind. Ortiz Cofer reveals how a collective tragedy can affect many different kinds of people when she reveals how the assassination of President Kennedy can be experienced by many people. Even though there are many differences between Elena’s and Eugene’s families, both families are deeply affect by the presidents death. Also, teachers and adults at Elena’s and Eugene’s school also wept for the dead president. This story explores the effects that a tragedy has on a diverse group of people.

Some events in this story parallels with the assassination of JFK. For example, Elena had a lot of hope when she knocked on Eugene’s door to study with with him. This compares to the...

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