Barrio balances fully rounded characters with stock types in order to integrate his themes with the psychological development of his strongest characters. The novel achieves its significance and power more through skillfully constructed characters than through the elaboration of a linear plot. Barrio relies heavily on a combination of precise description, blatant polemic, and insistent dialogue. These elements find common ground in the speech patterns of characters and the third-person narration.
Reproducing rhythmic dialect of his protagonist pickers, highlighting the bark of clichés from Barfy and Turner, and crafting the affected diction of menial workers in the compound who have deceived themselves into thinking that they have improved their lives because they no longer depend on picking for their low wages, Barrio uses parallel syntax, arranging English in a typically Spanish word order, and provides immediate translations of Spanish words and phrases. His switching between Spanish and English within paragraphs or even sentences echoes the larger thematic conflict between Chicano pickers and Anglo growers.
Manuel, an innocent man who believes in the dignity of his labor but struggles with despair, internalizes this conflict. When Morales pushes Manuel’s crew to the brink of collapse, Manuel resists by proclaiming himself a man like any other in the hierarchy—owner, overseer, crew boss, or picker. Setting the tone for eventual resistance to exploitation, he wins the respect of his crew and realizes his own qualities of leadership. Turner’s system permits no development of Chicano leaders, for that inevitably would...
(The entire section is 673 words.)