American History Questions and Answers
by Judith Ortiz Cofer

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What is the main conflict in the short story "American History" by Judith Ortiz Cofer?  

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Additionally, the main conflict can also be placed in the character-versus-society category.

As the story progresses, we come to the realization that Elena feels alienated from her parents, her school peers, and mainstream society. First, she is Puerto Rican, and her command of English isn't good enough for her to be admitted into honors classes at school. Elena also finds herself rejected and ridiculed by the African-American girls she tries to best in rope-jumping. Because she is thin and small-framed, Elena finds it difficult to keep up with her more robust peers. Her schoolmates cruelly refer to her as Skinny Bones. As a small-chested Puerto Rican teenager, Elena feels self-conscious and humiliated that she lacks the kind of physique the more popular girls have.

Elena spends much of her time at home reading on the fire escape in her apartment building and spying on an older Jewish couple in the house next door. Eventually, the husband dies, and his elderly wife moves out. A new family moves in, and there is a teenage son in the mix. Elena finds herself falling in love as she watches Eugene. However, her mother is unsympathetic when she discovers Elena is interested in the boy next door. She unceremoniously tells Elena that she is just love-sick or "stupidly infatuated." There is not much positive interaction between the mother and daughter; instead, Elena has to endure her mother's incessant warnings about the need to protect her "virtue" and "morality."

Elena is drawn to the novel Gone With The Wind because it tells the story of a beautiful heroine (who has devoted parents to support her and slaves to serve her). When Eugene invites her over, she is over the moon. However,...

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