What is José's role in Buried Onions? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Gary Soto's novel Buried Onions, the character of José represents the difficulty of breaking away from the stifling grip of poverty and violence which pervades life in the Mexican-American barrio of southeast Fresno, which is the dominant setting of the story.

José returns to his childhood home...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In Gary Soto's novel Buried Onions, the character of José represents the difficulty of breaking away from the stifling grip of poverty and violence which pervades life in the Mexican-American barrio of southeast Fresno, which is the dominant setting of the story.

José returns to his childhood home on leave from the Marines. He has finished basic training and is excited to be soon on his way to Korea. He is an old friend of the protagonist Eddie, who is also seeking to escape the barrio, first through college and then through working. José exudes confidence as he first greets Eddie. He is now a success, having overcome the gang life he and Eddie were trapped in as youths. Eddie seeks to escape this life as well but is constantly dragged back into it by his affiliation with "vatos" like Angel, Lupe and Samuel. 

For José, however, it doesn't take long for the old life to interfere with his new found prosperity. He takes Eddie out for breakfast and when they leave the restaurant Eddie sees the truck which was recently stolen from him. When Eddie goes to call Mr. Stiles, the owner of the truck, José is stabbed by gang members near the stolen truck. His dreams of going to Korea are indefinitely postponed as he spends several days in the hospital before recovering. He comments in chapter eight that even when he tries to do something, it ends up being messed up by the reality of the world he grew up in. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team