What is Eddie's theory about the origin of Fresno's sadness?

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Buried Onions is a book by author Gary Soto that was published in 1997. The protagonist of the novel is Eddie, who is a young Latino man. When the story begins, Eddie has lost his father, one of his best friends, and various other family members to gang violence. Eddie feels almost constant pressure from his remaining family members and friends to avenge these deaths, yet he is trying to rise above the violence and make something of his life.

Eddie's theory of why life in Fresno is so difficult is where the "buried onions" metaphor comes in. Eddie says it seems like there is one huge onion buried underneath the city that causes everyone in the city to be miserable and near tears at all times. Soto bases much of the despair with which he writes about Fresno on hard cold facts. Over the past 10 to 15 years, acute poverty has become the norm in some parts of Fresno, particularly in downtown and the suburbs.

Eddie knows that he will end up in similar circumstances—and perhaps even in a gang—unless he finds a way out of the poverty and violence of Fresno.

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The city of Fresno is in the middle of California's Central Valley, one of the most important agricultural areas in the United States and the world. A wide variety of crops are grown in this fertile region, including onions. In Chapter One of Gary Soto's novel Buried Onions, the protagonist, Eddie, explains the sadness of the Mexican barrio of Fresno, claiming that a "huge onion" was buried under the city and that its vapors permeated everything, bringing tears to the eyes of those who lived there. To reinforce this theme Eddie describes Belinda, his best friend's sister, who has a tear permanently tattooed on her cheek.

This buried onion explains the tragedies and day-to-day malaise of his neighborhood, especially among several of the males, who are either dead, in jail, or committed to a life of crime. Those men, like Eddie and José, who want to escape this existence always seem to be drawn back into the sadness. Eddie can't seem to get a break, losing jobs, being arrested and constantly tormented by Angel and Samuel. José is stabbed while trying to help Eddie and is not able to "ship out" with his Marine Corps unit. In the end, in a symbolic confrontation, Eddie is presented with two onions as he walks through a field outside of Fresno. After taking the onions in his hands he suggests that he has cried the last of his "childhood tears."

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