Buried Onions

by Gary Soto

Start Free Trial

What trouble or conflict is the main character dealing with in Buried Onions?

Expert Answers

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

The main conflict Eddie faces is one of the character vs. society variety. He is truly trying to make his living in a world where it seems that his chance of survival, let alone success, seems impossible. It's true that he clashes with another young man named Angel, but he also clashes with Samuel, the man with yellow shoes, his aunt (who wants him to find and kill the man who killed Eddie's cousin, Jesus), Mr. Stiles, the police, and he is constantly anticipating conflicts with others, like if he is seen talking to someone else's girlfriend, for example. He once describes a seventy-year-old man who shares a hospital room with his friend, Jose, who had been stabbed while trying to retrieve a truck that had been stolen while it was in Eddie's possession, as having "escaped his fate" until his seventies. This makes it sound as though Eddie hardly expects a person to survive in his community that long. Gangs seem to have evolved as a way of surviving and it becomes almost as dangerous to be out of a gang as it is to be in one. Eddie tries to be honest and calm, and he mostly succeeds with Mr. Stiles, who he likes a lot; he tries to avoid fighting or allowing his temper to be ignited, but when he is told that Angel—the very person trying to compel him to kill Jesus's killer—actually killed Jesus himself, even Eddie cannot resist the temptation to do violence to him. He can only escape by actually leaving his community, and this is a good clue that it is his antagonist.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Eddie is attempting to pull himself out of a life of poverty and crime but the circumstances he lives in keep drawing him back in.

When he was growing up, Eddie got into some trouble. He was headed down the same path as many people who live in the barrio where he lives. However, he knows that he wants more for himself. One thing that drives him to want a better life is how many people around him have died—either from criminal situations or other dangers. He also doesn't want to end up in jail like other people he knows.

The trouble comes when the circumstances and people around him keep trying to drag him back into a life of crime. His cousin was murdered and people around him expect him to avenge a person who he cared very little about. For example, his aunt leaves him a gift at the end of the first chapter to encourage him and pay him for taking care of the person who killed her son.

Eddie has to fight against all these social traps that attempt to keep him down. Ultimately, though, he is able to leave that life by joining the military. At the same time, he knows that the people he's grown up with are pulling away from him and that he's losing those connections as he gains...

This Answer Now

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

Get 48 Hours Free Access

a happier and safer life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are two major conflicts which Eddie has to deal with in Gary Soto's novel Buried Onions, about life in the Mexican-American ghetto of Fresno, California.

The first conflict is best labeled as person vs. society. Eddie is in direct conflict with his social surroundings. He has seen his father, his cousin, and his best friend Juan die young, mostly because of circumstances directly related to their poverty and lack of opportunity. Others from his "barrio" have gone to prison or are taking strides toward eventual prison sentences. Eddie also lacks opportunity. He drops out of college, saying it was just like high school and students didn't listen to the teachers. Even when Eddie catches a break with a job working for Mr. Stiles, his background catches up with him as Mr. Stiles' truck is stolen while parked outside of Eddie's apartment. Mr. Stiles eventually turns Eddie in to the police over the missing truck.

The second conflict is simply person vs. person. Eddie is dogged throughout the novel by the ironically named Angel, a local hood who wants Eddie to help him go after Juan's killer. They ultimately come to blows because Eddie thinks Angel is stalking him. He also suspects that Angel was really the one who killed Juan. Because of Angel, Eddie hides in his apartment, and, in a metaphoric commentary on the barrio, he attempts to kill the cockroaches that have infested his kitchen, but no matter what he does, they always come back. The conflict with Angel finally forces Eddie to abandon Fresno. In a seeming epiphany at the end of the novel, he begins crying after being handed two onions by an unknown man. Soto has used the symbol of the buried onion to explain the tears and sadness (Juan's sister has a tattoo of a tear on her cheek) of those who live in the barrio. Eddie suggests that these will be the last of his childhood tears as he moves away from the barrio to join the military.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Eddie, the main character, is struggling to survive in the barrio of Fresno, California, where he's constantly encouraged by friends and family to do things he doesn't want to do or shouldn't do, such as guns and drugs. He doesn't want to end up like his father, his cousin, and his best friend who all died. Throughout the book, it becomes more difficult for Eddie to try and live his own life, and he finally realizes he has to leave the barrio in order to do this. This is the main conflict that Eddie must face in the book.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team