Buried Onions is a story of a nineteen-year-old Mexican American boy, Eddie, who struggles to escape the poverty and gang violence of city life. As his life becomes consumed by the difficulties of staying alive in a drug-ridden neighborhood, with very little parental guidance, Eddie becomes overwhelmed by the number...
Buried Onions is a story of a nineteen-year-old Mexican American boy, Eddie, who struggles to escape the poverty and gang violence of city life. As his life becomes consumed by the difficulties of staying alive in a drug-ridden neighborhood, with very little parental guidance, Eddie becomes overwhelmed by the number of negative influences surrounding him. Because he is committed to making an honest living, the destructive circumstances of his own life seem magnified all the more. Because of this, urban poverty, particularly in the paucity of good food, is a recurring image throughout the novel.
Eddie himself recognizes the difficulty of making an honest living when he says, “What did I know? The working life was a scam.” Each morning, he informs the reader, he gets up and pours himself a bowl of Wheaties: a simple, weak, unsatisfying morning breakfast, in Eddie’s evaluation. In his youth, Eddie had believed that eating enough Wheaties would make him into a man when he grew older, but he now realizes that such a thought was nonsense. Wheaties were breakfast food for the weak—“wimpy-ass flakes,” as he calls them—that the poor were forced to eat for lack of anything better.
Eddie also consumes drinks of the simple life. In chapter 5, for example, the coach offers Eddie some vending-machine Dr. Pepper as Eddie helps him finish the lines on the baseball field. Additionally, when Eddie’s friend Angel comes to visit him one day in his kitchen, he is unable to find a soda in the refrigerator, so he cups his hands under the kitchen faucet to get a drink of water.
These are seemingly minor details in a story that is otherwise filled with images of guns and illicit street narcotics, but the very simplicity of them drives an important point home. Eddie’s world is one in which the most basic needs of daily life, food and drink, are limited to the cheapest possible assortment of mass-produced garbage. This simplicity arises from the fact that Eddie has chosen not to engage in crime and possibly increase his access to a more materially diversified and enjoyable life. The entire scenario forces the reader to consider the morality of his decision to do so in the face of the practical circumstances he faces on a daily basis.