(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Wedding fictionally re-creates a small-town barrio (neighborhood) near Los Angeles in the 1950’s and traces events surrounding the wedding of Blanca Muñoz and Sammy-the-Cricket Lopez. Ironically contrasting a young woman’s romantic dreams with her world’s reality, the novel portrays working-class Mexican Americans’ ability to live spirited lives on the fringes of society.

The Wedding’s two parts, told by an omniscient narrator, focus mainly on Blanca. The first part ranges from the characters’ childhood to just before the wedding. The second part narrates the traditional events of the barrio wedding day.

The novel begins when the eighteen-year-old Blanca and the twenty-two-year-old Cricket start dating. Both are junior-high-school dropouts with menial jobs; Blanca plucks turkeys, and Cricket collects garbage. Blanca, living at home, helps her mother with expenses. She and her girlfriends fantasize about romance and excitement— specifically, an ideal man with a steady job and a “cool” car. Unglamorous and inexperienced, Blanca lacks criteria for judging men. She finds Sammy-the-Cricket impressive because in fights he knocks his opponents senseless. Cricket is a pachuco, one of the 1950’s Mexican American youth who wore tailored, baggy “zoot suits” and often were involved in street gangs. Leader of Los Tacones, the neighborhood gang, Cricket had earned his nickname by stomping a member of the rival Planchados gang after beating him up.

On their first date, Blanca and Cricket see Gone with the Wind, a film Blanca has seen ten times, at the drive-in with their friends Tudi and Sally. Tudi, driving his own car, refuses Cricket’s urging to ram a car of Planchados who are peacefully leaving the drive-in. During the courtship, Cricket gets Blanca pregnant. Her condition apparently...

(The entire section is 765 words.)

The Wedding Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The Wedding, Mary Helen Ponce’s only novel to date, is dedicated to “the chicks and guys from the barrios who remember the big, fun weddings . . . and fights.” The book follows a young Mexican American woman’s life from jobs to meeting the young man she will marry to the wedding party and gang fight.

Blanca Munoz lives in Taconos, a poor Chicano neighborhood not far from Los Angeles. Like many of her peers, Blanca lives in a single-parent home and drops out of school to look for work. She works in a Japanese flower shop and then in the fields picking lettuce and tomatoes. She tries to find a better job, but she is young, uneducated, and without skills, so she finally takes a job at a turkey processing plant, picking the feathers off turkeys while she imagines a better life.

She meets Samuel Lopez, or Cricket, the twenty-two year old leader of the local gang, the Tacones, who constantly tests the limits between his gang and the neighboring gang, the Planchados. Although she calls him honey, their relationship seems based more on proximity and chance than on love. Blanca and Cricket focus much more on the impending wedding as a social symbol than as the symbol of their union. Each wants a splendid wedding for different reasons: Cricket wants to raise his status among the gang members, and wants his wedding to be one that “would outclass all others”; Blanca wants to salvage the family’s pride, increase its social status...

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The Wedding Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Gonzalez, Ray. “Hoyt Street: An Autobiography.” The Nation 256 (June 7, 1993): 772-774. Gonzalez presents a reading list of modern Chicano writing, briefly commenting on a number of books, including Ponce’s autobiography Hoyt Street. Although his article does not specifically mention The Wedding, it offers a useful perspective of the body of Ponce’s work in relation to other Chicano authors.

Hernández, Guillermo. “Satire: An Introduction.” In Chicano Satire: A Study in Literary Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991. Hernández examines pachucos as historical and literary figures. Originally often seen as comical, this urban counterculture gradually became seen as threatening. Hernández discusses the pachucos’ trademark “zoot suit” as a distortion of mainstream culture’s business suit.

McCracken, Ellen. “Subculture, Parody, and the Carnivalesque: A Bakhtinian Reading of Mary Helen Ponce’s The Wedding.” MELUS 23 (Spring, 1998): 117. McCracken argues that Ponce’s novel has earned a place in the late twentieth century canon of novels written by Mexican American women even though it does not fit the mold of critically popular work of the 1990’s. She maintains that since the critics have lauded the exotic nature, rich language, and magic realism of Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, and others, they should also appreciate the humorous insider’s perspective of Pachuco culture offered by Ponce.

Magnarelli, Sharon. “Taking Control.” Hispania 71 (December, 1988): 844-845. A review of Ponce’s 1987 volume of short stories. Magnarelli focuses on the characters’ ironic inability to “take control,” a theme Ponce reinforces in The Wedding. Magnarelli discusses the characters’ “paradoxical combination of insight and blindness,” a paradox underlying Blanca’s character.

Vallejos, Tomás. “Social Insights.” American Book Review 11 (January, 1990): 13. Vallejos explores sexism in Chicano culture and associates the structure of Ponce’s novel—thirteen chapters in part 1 and nine in part 2—with an Aztec prophecy of thirteen time periods of heaven followed by nine periods of hell. He notes that the novel sets the “heavenly” illustrations of the traditional Chicano wedding against the “hellish” reality of the Chicano working class.

Vásquez, Mary S. Review of The Wedding, by Mary Helen Ponce. Hispania 73 (December, 1990): 1005-1007. Vásquez focuses on Ponce’s skill with dialect and on the wedding, which as spectacle fulfills Blanca’s dreams. She comments that the “poignant tension between too much and too little” informs the second half of the novel.