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What is the main conflict in the short story, "American History" by Judith Ortiz Cofer?  

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alynow | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 25, 2011 at 12:21 PM via web

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What is the main conflict in the short story, "American History" by Judith Ortiz Cofer?

 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 25, 2011 at 8:36 PM (Answer #1)

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I would argue that this excellent coming-of-age short story is actually centred around an internal conflict within Elena herself, and the gap between her dreams and hopes and the brute reality that she has to face because of her ethnicity. This of course also is manifested in the external conflict in the way in which Eugene's mother treats Elena when she goes to his house, and is foreshadowed by the way in which Elena's mother warns her daughter about what she is heading towards:

You are forgetting who you are, Nina. I have seen you staring down at that boy's house. You are heading for humiliation and pain.

Thus it is that Elena's conflict is between the hopes that she has for herself and her friendship with Eugene and her ethnicity and the way that it makes her different from others. The death of her hopes is of course paralleled with the death of JFK, who himself tried to campaign for equality.

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