How is Zoot Suit an exploration of the tension in American society between conformity and non-conformity?
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Valdez's work brings out how important the issue of cultural identity is both within a specific culture and its relationship towards other groups in a social collection. In particular, the element of conformity that members of the pachucos are trying to break through against is the idea that Hispanics and Hispanic- Americans must be docile, accept low paying jobs, and essentially be "seen and not heard." The paradigm that Valdez establishes is one in which the "zoot suiters" are fundamentally defined against what Anglo society sees as "appropriate" behavior for the Latino population. This becomes a challenge between conformity and non- conformity. At some point, the novel brings out the idea that in order for true social change to be evident, in order for voices to be validated, and in order for individuals to understand their own conception of what it means to be American, there has to be a challenging element of non- conformity. The narrative offered by Valdez suggests that civil rights and the ability to be heard and understood is something that necessitates a sense of non- conformity against a conformist order that is more concerned with silencing voices than acknowledging them.
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