A dynamic character is one who learns a life lesson or dramatically changes his or her mind or personality throughout the story. Elena, in Cofer's "American History," learns a dramatic lesson by the end of her story. At first she is teased and hates school, but she finds joy watching an elderly couple in the house next to her apartment building. She dreams about one day reading her books at a kitchen table like they do. Then, when she befriends the new boy who moves into the house after the man dies and the old woman moves away, she hopes to read at the kitchen table with Eugene.
Unfortunately, Elena doesn't know that she is about to experience a devastating blow when she knocks on Eugene's door for their study date. Elena learns that prejudice and discrimination come from all different walks of life, and can pop up unexpectedly, too. When Eugene's mother turns her away, this dramatic yet subtle rejection teaches Elena that not everything will turn out the way she plans. She also learns that dreams might not always come true in the way or the time frame she wants. Elena's dynamic change is understood when she says the following:
"That night, I lay in my bed trying to feel the right thing for our dead president. But the tears that came up from a deep source inside me were strictly for me. . . . Sometime during the night, I saw from my bed the street light come on. . . . Looking up at the light, I could see the white snow falling like a lace veil over its face. I did not look down to see it turning gray as it touched the ground below."
By not looking down, Elena stops herself from looking at Eugene's house—the house that has given her so much peace in the past. She denies herself the temptation to dream. This is proof that Elena has learned her lesson. She understands that dreaming of a life in another house isn't fulfilling or satisfying, and it only leads to remorse.