Eddie has a tough choice to make in Buried Onions. What is that choice? What are the possible consequences? How does Eddie’s family complicate that choice? Examine what would you do if you were Eddie.
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The tough choice that Eddie has to make in Buried Onions is one between the world of what is and the world of what might be. For Eddie and the limited options that his world of Fresno presents, this choice is agonizing. On one hand, Eddie recognizes that the world in which he lives is wrought with futility and challenge: "We were all poor, all going somewhere. But where?” Poverty, limited opportunities, and the social context of a world in which there is less in way of individual aspiration beyond the contingent are all parts of this reality. Eddie lives in a world that “was teeming with thugs, thieves, and low-IQ killers.” The people around Eddie succumb to physical death or a moral one where the lack of hope is jarring. For Eddie, making a choice between this world and a world in which hope is a challenge becomes part of his narrative: "I needed to distance myself from Fresno.” Staying in Fresno or leaving it becomes his challenge.
Soto depicts challenging consequences for Eddie in either predicament. If Eddie stays in Fresno, there is little in way of hope and aspiration. Eddie is shown to constantly seek to repel the life of the transient materialist, the drive for fast money and thus fast death. Eddie is willing to fight through the pain of labor and work in order to find something more substantive and significant than what is around him. Yet, he also finds that this path contains its own set of challenges. Discrimination, closed doors, and the lack of a fair chance enhances his difficulty in repelling Fresno, problems that fit together in Eddie "like a set of Legos." Neither condition is easy. Eddie is condemned to having to make a choice where the lure of the other always exists and contentment is very difficult to achieve.
Adding to this difficulty is that Eddie's family is not able to shelter him from the difficulty that he must face. Death, economic hardship, and social conventions that emphasize machismo over hard work and dedication to a transcendent goal are familial realities that he encounters. This lack of familial guidance helps to make Eddie's challenges even more formidable. Eddie recognizes that the decision he must make is something that he must embrace on his own: "All my life everyone was pulling away from me—Father, my mom, Jesus, school friends, and homies who disappear in three lines of the obituary column. I could have cried under the heat of Fresno, but it wouldn't have mattered. My tears would have evaporated before anyone saw my sadness." Having to make the critical choice of who he will be and how he shall live without the sanctuary of family is something that complicates Eddie's decision making process.
In the end, the reflective element is going to be dependent on the individual. I tend to think that the ending of the narrative reflects how Eddie makes his choice to sojourn on his own, living with the consequences that will follow. "The last of childhood tears" shows that Eddie understands the challenges of what he needs to do in embracing a life apart from Fresno. One cannot fault him for making such a decision, for choosing hope and life over the deadening reality of what is. Different readers will have different reflections about his choice, but I think that Soto's affirmation of life in the form of what Eddie does in seeking to relinquish "the last of childhood tears" is quite compelling.
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