Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Line of the Sun is a story of cultural integration embodied in the growth of the child Marisol into a young woman. That growth is complicated by her struggle to understand the unsteady connection between island Puerto Rican and mainland American life.

The novel is divided into two distinct sections brought together by Marisol’s imagination. The first six chapters recount the time before Marisol’s birth. In them, the island culture of Puerto Rico and Marisol’s genetic heritage are illustrated in her mythic landscaping of the memories of her grandparents, parents, and especially her uncle Gusmán. Chapters 7 through 12 move through the more realistic memories of Marisol’s childhood from age two until she is a senior in college.

Both sections use ritual to galvanize the protagonists to take up their quests. Gusmán, in part 1, is “exorcised” by Rosa and will follow her or her ideal for the rest of his life, living in exile on the mainland and eventually becoming Marisol’s guide. Marisol, in part 2, escaping the fire that results from the spiritist ritual conducted in El Building and forced to live in the suburbs, takes on the task of translating the new world to her mother, the motivation for translating life into words on the page. The form of the novel represents the two sides of Marisol’s character, which remain distinct and whole within her at the end.

The epilogue joins imagination and memory to...

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The Line of the Sun Context

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

In Ortiz Cofer’s The Line of the Sun, the blending of cultures is presented with an emphasis on the woman’s perspective, her universal struggle to be an individual when caught between powerful forces of cultural immersion.

Ortiz Cofer’s works highlight the role of American culture instead of viewing it from a perspective within the Latin culture. There is no magic in Ortiz Cofer’s work. Spiritism is used only as a practice, and its results can be explained by natural law.

Furthermore, Ortiz Cofer is separate from other Puerto Rican woman writers in the Nuyorican group, such as Nicholasa Mohr and Sandra María Esteves, who use Spanglish and write from the large Puerto Rican community in New York, which confirms and supports their culture. Ortiz Cofer writes from outside the Puerto Rican community and brings to her work the blending of sensitivities derived from her years among the people of New Jersey and her last seventeen years of living in a small town in Georgia.

Other Latina writers such as Cristina Garcia, born in Cuba and reared in New York City, or Sandra Cisneros, the Chicago-born daughter of Mexican American background now living in Texas, share the connection of language and cultural separation with Ortiz Cofer, but their history and experience define varied perspectives. Cuban women writers, for example, deal with political exile in their writing, but Ortiz Cofer has always been an American citizen.

The Line of the Sun is written for women whose lives separate them from their roots and place them among unfamiliar situations and strangers, in cultures that they must learn to understand in order to grow. Ortiz Cofer re-creates the past to show that it must contribute to a rich imaginative life in the future if people are to uncover deeper truths of human nature that are important for everyone in a changing world. In her Puerto Rican American reality, Judith Ortiz Cofer walks alone, on a cultural line that is constantly shifting, like Marisol’s line of the sun.

The Line of the Sun Setting

Two primary settings dominate the novel, the village of Salud, Puerto Rico, and the tenement of El Building in Paterson, New Jersey. A third...

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The Line of the Sun Literary Qualities

In many ways, The Line of the Sun is actually two novels combined into one. The first half of the book, characterized by dreamlike,...

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The Line of the Sun Social Sensitivity

Ortiz Cofer weaves her tale with the impartial style of a historian. She does not judge her characters' actions, merely relating their...

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The Line of the Sun Topics for Discussion

1. How does Gabriel and Rafael's relationship differ from Ramona and Marisol's? To what extent are these differences due to the characters'...

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The Line of the Sun Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. How does Ortiz Cofer weave the theme of storytelling and storytellers into her novel? What are some of the sociocultural and literary...

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The Line of the Sun Related Titles / Adaptations

Readers who enjoy The Line of the Sun are sure to appreciate Ortiz Cofer's other books. For example, An. Island Like You: Stories...

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The Line of the Sun For Further Reference

Acosta-Belen, Edna. "A MELUS Interview: Judith Ortiz Cofer." MELUS 18.3 (fall 1993): 83. The author discusses the...

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The Line of the Sun Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Bruce-Novoa, Juan. “Judith Ortiz Cofer’s Rituals of Movement.” The Americas Review 19, nos. 3-4 (Winter, 1991): 88-99. Examines Ortiz Cofer’s poetry and prose in the light of the tension created by the opposing forces of culture between which she continuously moves. Specific analysis of ritual that forms the basis of island tradition and represses women is noted on one side of the power struggle.

Bruce-Novoa, Juan. “Ritual in Judith Ortiz Cofer’s The Line of the Sun.” Confluencia 8 (Fall, 1992): 61-69. Defines the “Habit of Movement,” the swing from one culture to another and back that results in...

(The entire section is 225 words.)