Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
This fictional account of approximately a year in the life of a young man dramatizes the real plight of the migrant Mexican farmworker attempting to enter and work in the United States. Macho! is divided into three major parts, each labeled as a book and further subdivided into chapters. Books 1 and 3 are short, with the action set in the rural Mexican village of the principal characters; book 2 chronicles the odyssey of the protagonist, Roberto Garcia, into the violent underworld of the illegal migrant farmworker. Although the omniscient third-person narrator occasionally reveals thoughts of other characters, the narrative perspective is almost entirely Roberto’s.
In addition to the main fictional narrative, each chapter begins with a brief quasihistorical preface, designed to inform and to persuade the reader. The first and longest of these prefaces describes the dramatic 1943 appearance of the volcano Paricutin one hundred miles from Roberto’s village and the volcano’s far-reaching effects. Through these prefaces, Villaseñor suggests that the natural threat of Paricutin, a blessing in disguise for Roberto’s community, has been replaced by the less visible, more insidious threat of airborne industrial pollution. The threat of pollution lingers before being dismissed summarily, like dirt in the wind, at the story’s end. Most of the novel’s remaining prefaces indict American agribusiness interests for exploiting cheap Mexican migrant...
(The entire section is 728 words.)
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Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
In this novel about a young Mexican who immigrates illegally into the United States, Victor Villaseñor suggests that the protagonist, Roberto, extracts his identity from the soil of the fields that he works. On the first and last pages of the novel, Villaseñor describes how volcanic ash has enriched the soil of a Mexican valley. At the end of the novel, Roberto has returned to this valley to work the land, applying what he has learned in the United States.
These homages to volcanic ash suggest that soil is not just the earth’s outer covering but also its soul. Likewise, the soil is the soul of the people who work it. The novel refers to the Mexican Revolution of 1910, which was a popular movement to redistribute the ownership of land. In other words, land is fundamental to understanding not only the Mexican people but also the country’s politics and history.
According to Villaseñor, Mexico’s geography dictates the country’s indigenous law. Mexico is mountainous, so villages are very isolated. As a result of their isolation, these villages develop their own systems of justice and never appeal to a higher authority. This law of the land is a violent code of honor, and the novel documents how this code places a premium on a woman’s virginity and on a man’s ability to fight. The definition of “macho” must necessarily emanate from an understanding of this law of the land.
The novel makes frequent references to César...
(The entire section is 446 words.)