What does Elena feel on the day President Kennedy gets shot? Why is she partially sorrowful that night?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elena has a study date scheduled with a boy named Eugene on the evening of President Kennedy's assassination. The students are sent home by the P.E. teacher, Mr. DePalma, and Elena actually feels scared as she heads towards El Building. The apartment block seems eerie because there is no music playing as there normally would be. When she gets to her apartment, her mother is crying for the president just like Mr. DePalma was. Elena's feelings that day are as follows:

"Though I wanted to feel the right thing about President Kennedy's death, I could not fight the feeling of elation that stirred in my chest. Today was the day I was to visit Eugene in his house. . . to study for an American History test with him."

Rather than miss her opportunity to see him, Elena decides to go to his house even though her mother tells her she should stay home in honor of Kennedy's death. Unfortunately, however, Elena is turned away by Eugene's mother on his doorstep because Elena is Puerto Rican and Eugene is a white Southerner from Georgia. Eugene's family comes from an environment of segregation, which his mother believes in, so Elena is rejected. As a result of such discrimination and prejudice, Elena goes home sorrowful for the way she has been treated and for not being allowed to be friends with Eugene.