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America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan Essay

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Updated: Nov 23rd, 2021


Carlos Bulosan’s novel America is in the heart is born from the hostile environment to which the writer was exposed, from his childhood years to the time the novel was published. It is his dream of escaping this situation that propelled Carlos into the world of writing. Had it not been for the natural hostility of Carlos’ life, he might just as well have settled for office work and a simple work-life without ever writing a thing. We can therefore say that even though Carlos managed to take control of his environment, he would never have come up with such handy work of writing. The novel America is in the heart functions naturalistically.

The question of naturalism or realism may arise, based on the reading perspective of different readers; which is the most appropriate way to regard the novel? The appropriate answer is that Carlos grants the reader the power to make the decision based on any of the liberal views of the novel. However, the realistic aspect is more overt through Carlos’ reasonable relationships, his private struggles, the plausibility of actions in the novel, significance of societal stratification and the overall outcome of the situations that are lying in Carlos’ hands in the long run.

Carlos’ society, the inferior character classes, adventures, passions, violence, sex and themes of determination, survival, taboo, violence and environment bring the argument of naturalism forth. Environment, specifically, shapes the entire novel and appears to be the key determinant of Carlos’ final decisions.

It is on these aspects and conditions that Carlos makes a final decision and declares that America is actually inside his heart.

Main Themes

America is in the heart is a story of Carlos Bulosan (Allos) starting from the period when he was a Filipino peasant kid and progress through the period when he was a worker and activist for Filipino workers in America. This is a biography of the hard times that the mistreated and rejected peoples went through. Filipinos were harassed, loathed, and persecuted along the American West coast and given treatment comparable only to that given to monkeys and criminals (Pg. 58).

Exploitation, despise, and harassment

Filipino workers had no right to possess land to farm and risked being roughed up even for talking to white women. Since they had no legal representation or rights groups, contractors and employers heavily exploited Filipino workers. Japanese and Chinese who owned whorehouses and gambling casinos did not spare them either.

This sort of exploitation and harassment drove many Filipino workers to heavy drinking and eventually violence, which only worsened the hatred of the other Filipinos. Carlos gives us an account of how Filipinos suffered brutal tortures under the white lords, diseases, and widespread unemployment. Bulosan was fired several times only for trying to advocate for his people and himself (Pg. 46, 92, 102).


The first meeting of Bulosan with his brother Leon proved the fact that despite the hardships and distance, the family still exists even when they are miles apart. Filipino families survived the hardships of their environment in America by pulling resources and what they had together, whether by trading on merchandise in the market, laboring for taxing contractors, or any other form of petty income activity. However, we can also see that families were always not complete or if it was, not fully united. One member was always away at one time, but the others always managed to move on.


Carlos did not seem to manage time whilst he was in America. The issue of time in the novel is a theme that bears much weight. Many at times did Carlos wonder the number of years that had passed by since he set foot in Seattle while he reflected on an issue. Even after the reader completes reading the novel, it is not apparent how long the biography covers, unless calculated to detail from the events illustrated from Carlos’ historical experiences and references to time and figures in various parts of the novel. Carlos had a sensitive sense of timing since his survival depended on how he focused on the present. There is a fascinating contrast when he says, “yesterday seemed long ago and tomorrow was too far away. It was today that I lived for aimless, this hour – this moment.” (Pg 301).

Conflicting American Society

From the novel, two conflicting American societies are brought forth: There is the society that was always so cruel, mean, and demanding. At some points in the novel, another face of the society presented itself as kind, tender and peaceful. Carlos did not comprehend how a country as great as America tortured its people yet it had a population that was so willing to lend a hand in difficult situations. Carlos even dreaded his image for the violence and pain that he had gone through. He was frightened by his brutality and how he could contain his rage while at the same instant longed for the time his people could be blessed with endless love and goodness in the land of opportunity, (Pg 156).

The writers Artistic expose

America is in the heart names so many places and names, at some point in the book it may be a challenge to remember who did what where and when. AS Carlos travels all over the east coast, the world seems a small place and with great people as he meets with his companions multiple times during his movement. This, to me, is an art that makes him dig deep in the writer’s mind, training it to explore a wide area over a short time and limited space. Carlos’ intelligence as a writer is brought forth as the novel approaches the end when he organizes Filipino workers to form a workers’ movement. Carlos gathers up his confidence in America at this point in life and rounds up individuals with similar interests to fight for the same course. It is here also that he seriously pursues his passion for reading books, proving that situations can get a lot better despite the leader’s lack of education. Although he just moved there when he was of tender age, Carlos came to appreciate and love America so much that with time it became a part of his being. This fact came forth because he believed that America was a land of success for those who struggle. Carlos Bulosan is not only a great writer who manages to capture a reader’s mind, but he is also an artist with the talent to bring out what he feels and converts it into writing with minimal corrosion.

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1. IvyPanda. "America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan." November 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/america-is-in-the-heart-by-carlos-bulosan/.


IvyPanda. "America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan." November 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/america-is-in-the-heart-by-carlos-bulosan/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan." November 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/america-is-in-the-heart-by-carlos-bulosan/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan'. 23 November.

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