Study Guide

The Meaning of Consuelo

by Judith Ortiz Cofer

The Meaning of Consuelo Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Ortiz Cofer ventured into writing books for young people in the early twenty-first century, notably Riding Low on the Streets of Gold in 2003 and Call Me Maria in 2004. The Meaning of Consuelo is directed toward a similar audience. This is the story of a young Puerto Rican woman whose name means “consolation.” The story is not only an account of the gradual growth and maturing of Consuelo but also of the growth and changes that take place in the world around her.

Consuelo is the more stable of two sisters. The other, Mili, short for Milagros, which means “miracle,” is called “Mill” in the story. She is often frivolous and light-hearted but is intermittently disrupted by her emotional problems that stem from schizophrenia. Unlike Mill, Consuelo tends to have a brooding personality, one in keeping with her feeling that she must be responsible and dependable.

The father of the family, who is fascinated by modern mechanical devices and loves anything American, is a maintenance engineer in a San Juan hotel. His humor substantially lightens the more serious elements in the story. He encourages his daughters to be modern, more like Americans, while his wife takes an opposite stand, urging her daughters to value their culture and observe the mores of the strictly structured older society gradually disappearing from modern Puerto Rico.

Ortiz Cofer raises many controversial questions in this novel, but...

(The entire section is 493 words.)