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“Daughter of Invention” and “Silent Dancing”: The Problem of Assimilation in a New Country Essay

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Updated: Dec 18th, 2021

The questions of alienation and discrimination of immigrants in the new unknown and sometimes hostile environments are raised in the short stories Daughter of Invention by Julia Alvarez and Silent Dancing by Judith Ortiz-Cofer. The picture of the surrounding world is viewed through the children’s eyes in both stories, while Cofer emphasizes the aspect of gender roles in her work.

The authors of both stories aimed at the depiction of immigrants’ adaptation in the country, in which language, rules and traditions differed from the lifestyle of their native land. The problems of the upbringing were illuminated by the authors but the lines of the parents’ behavior in two stories were different. Cofer’s characters tried to support their children during the uneasy process of adaptation. “We were the only ones in El Building that I knew of who got presents on both Christmas Day and on Dia de Reyes, the day when the Three Kings brought gifts to Christ and Hispanic children” (Cofer 91). Trying to imitate the traditions of the new country, parents were trying to help their children assimilating to the new society, they spent a lot of time together and sympathized with the relatives, realizing that the children and adults had similar problems. Alvarez’s characters were, on the contrary, too busy with their own affairs, and did not manage to help their children to adapt to the hostile environment. “Her father kept poking his head in the door just to see if Yoyo had “fulfilled your obligations,” a phrase he had used when the girls were younger” (Alvarez 142). As to Yoyo’s mother she was inventing some things to make the life of American women easier and it prevented her from heart-to-heart talking to her children. Perhaps, trying to make the kids stronger mother preferred to skip the problems and to shift the responsibility for the school conflicts onto her own children. She could see the way out in it, but the children needed support and understanding and could not find it in the family.

One more reason which predetermined the differences in the life positions of the families was the attitude towards the gender roles. The contrast between two depicted in the stories’ mothers is obvious. It was their self-identification and the social role they chose that influenced their views on the upbringing immensely. The characters of the story Silent Dancing preserved most of Puerto Rican traditions, where the position of women was oppressed. “The women would sit around and watch, but they never participated in the games” (Cofer 92). The girl was influenced by the adults’ views and shared their opinion concerning the place of the woman in the society. Her dream was to pass for American and she decided to get married to an American boy to solve the problem. “If I marry him, even my name will be American” (Cofer 96) On the other hand, the mother depicted by Alvarez was struggling against the difficulties, chose active life position and managed to cultivate the strength of character for her children as well. It is amazing, that the whole family was taking pains to assimilate into the unknown country and their efforts were rewarded, Yoyo’s speech was only the first success but not the last one. It was the factor that united the family and helped them to join their efforts. Mother helped Yoyo to combine her Puerto Rican traits with the intellectual revolutionary intentions and find American identification. The second speech symbolizes the compromise between two sides in the girl’s nature. Thus, the authors provided two entirely different views of very similar situations. Choosing active or passive positions, the main characters as well as their real prototypes, chose the destiny – whether to struggle for their happiness and equality or to live with the fact that they could only pass for Americans, forgetting who they are, being ashamed of their origin.

The authors chose different types of narration – the first person narration for Silent Dancing and the third person narration for Daughter of Invention. This choice was predetermined by the authors’ intentions and produces different impressions from the narration. Silent Dancing sounds like memoir and really has autobiographical basis. Cofer was more interested in the inner world of the characters, their thoughts, dreams and motivation, and the first person narration of the story makes it sound confidentially and credible, but subjective. It is the story of the formation of the girl’s life views and only the most important factors that influenced them are mentioned. It is her stream of consciousness, her associations that direct the narration and combine her selective memoirs into this expressive narration. The autobiographical facts merged with the figments of the author’s imagination, which was characteristic of Latina writing. Alvarez’s third-person narration on the contrary was aimed to sound objective. The storyteller is allowed to follow every character’s steps and knows even his/her feelings and emotions. The narrator would rather describe words than thoughts and actions than intentions. It provides the opportunity to make conclusions from what was done and try to predict the possible continuation of the story.

The short stories Daughter of Invention by Julia Alvarez and Silent Dancing by Judith Ortiz-Cofer reflect the authors’ views upon the problem of assimilation in the new country. The contrast of two works demonstrates the variety of possible author’s decisions for implementation of one’s ideas and the variety of the choices a person can make in every life situation.

Bibliography

Alvarez, Julia. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 1991: 290.

Cofer, Judith. Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood. Arte Publico Press. 1990: 158.

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""Daughter of Invention" and "Silent Dancing": The Problem of Assimilation in a New Country." IvyPanda, 18 Dec. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/daughter-of-invention-and-silent-dancing-the-problem-of-assimilation-in-a-new-country/.

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IvyPanda. ""Daughter of Invention" and "Silent Dancing": The Problem of Assimilation in a New Country." December 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/daughter-of-invention-and-silent-dancing-the-problem-of-assimilation-in-a-new-country/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Daughter of Invention" and "Silent Dancing": The Problem of Assimilation in a New Country." December 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/daughter-of-invention-and-silent-dancing-the-problem-of-assimilation-in-a-new-country/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"Daughter of Invention" and "Silent Dancing": The Problem of Assimilation in a New Country'. 18 December.

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