How is the narrator characterized in "American History" by Judith Ortiz Cofer?
Elena is the protagonist as well as the narrator of Cofer's short story "American History," so any descriptions of her character are based on what she experiences or feels. One of the first descriptions given about Elena is that the African American girls at school call her "Skinny Bones." She says that the other girls were bigger and better at jumping rope than she is, too. This gives the reader the impression that she is physically weak. But then she shows her own contempt for herself when she says the following:
"I hated my skinny , flat-chested body, and I envied the...
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Skinny Bones is a Puerto Rican teenage girl. She is young and impressionable and adapting to her life in a multicultural neighborhood in a home that houses several different families. She struggles to adapt to her new life in a neighborhood of Puerto Rican and African American people. She does not seem to fit in with the others around her and is considered a loner. The once Jewish neighborhood is in New Jersey. Her desire to fit in results in her developing an attachment to Eugene, a young man from Georgia. He also experiences the feeling of displacement. He has a southern accent, which makes him stand out as an oddity among the others. Skinny Bones accepts tutoring help from Eugene because although she is a good student, she cannot qualify for advanced classes. Through her boyfriend’s mother’s reaction, she begins to develop an understanding that she is not always accepted by others and starts to see her position in life. In addition, she is experiencing personal issues that override the grief that the nation is feeling over the death of President Kennedy, demonstrating how personal tragedy surpasses national tragedy.