Detailing the daily lives of Chicano migrant farmworkers trapped in low-paying, dead-end, back-breaking roles within the corporate agricultural system, The Plum Plum Pickers protests their exploitation and degradation. While exploring the hierarchy of oppression, the novel attacks the greed, racism, and injustice leveled against workers and reveals the unfulfilled hopes of the workers, who suffer from self-deception, disillusionment, and self-destruction.
Written with a loosely framed narrative but carefully designed coherent structure, the novel consists of thirty-four chapters that are like fragments in a collage of episodes, broken by graffiti, picking instructions, newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, popular songs in both Spanish and English, and government announcements to the pickers. The reader not only receives a complete description of daily routines in the migrant compound and of the pickers’ futile labor in the fields of plums and tomatoes but also feels immersed in the emotional tension between hope and despair and engulfed by the juxtaposition of a lush landscape with the brutality of harsh, racist exploitation.
As the novel opens, Morton J. Quill, the Anglo manager of the Western Grande migrant compound, receives an anonymous death threat. Quill, behaving more like a merciless plantation overseer than a competent manager, fears the ruthless power of his boss, Frederick Y. Turner, the compound’s greedy owner. Blind to the squalor in which the migrant children live, Quill measures his success by the number of boxes of fruits and vegetables; the less overt resistance from the pickers, the greater Quill believes his status to be. To insulate himself from confrontations with the...
(The entire section is 706 words.)