Who or what is the antagonist in the short story "American History" by Judith Ortiz Cofer? 

The antagonist in the short story "American History" by Judith Ortiz Cofer is Eugene's mother.

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As was mentioned in the previous post, Elena experiences ethnic discrimination from her African American classmates, who make derogatory comments about her appearance and ethnicity. While Elena is turning the jumprope for the other girls during gym class, they refer to her as "Skinny Bones" and begin to chant "pork...

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As was mentioned in the previous post, Elena experiences ethnic discrimination from her African American classmates, who make derogatory comments about her appearance and ethnicity. While Elena is turning the jumprope for the other girls during gym class, they refer to her as "Skinny Bones" and begin to chant "pork chop," which is a popular dish among Puerto Rican families.

The story's overall atmosphere could also be considered antagonistic. The harsh winter weather, the unfamiliar city of Paterson, and Public School Number 13 all present different challenges to Elena. Her high school is particularly antagonistic and is the place where she experiences discrimination on a daily basis.

Eugene's mother could also be considered an antagonist throughout the short story. She is portrayed as a xenophobic and racist American who refuses to allow her son to study with Elena. Eugene's mother expresses her displeasure and prejudice by telling Elena that she cannot study with her son. Elena leaves Eugene's yard in despair and cries to herself when she returns home.

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The antagonist in a story is the character who opposes or struggles against the protagonist. In Cofer's "American History," Elena is the protagonist and she mostly struggles against girls at school and Eugene's mother. What both the girls and the mother have in common is prejudiced feelings against Elena because she is Puerto Rican and lives in a poor apartment complex called El Building. The African American girls at Elena's school call her "Skinny Bones" and make racist remarks such as, "Didn't you eat your rice and beans and pork chops for breakfast today?" This makes her feel isolated, different, and lonely. Elena struggles to endure their remarks each day she is at school.

Eugene's mother, on the other hand, antagonizes Elena by not allowing her to study with her son—the one person who is nice to her at school. Eugene's mother doesn't like that Elena lives next door in an ugly apartment building and that she is Puerto Rican. Eugene's mother comes from Georgia, where segregation is not only permitted but is the norm, and interracial mingling is unheard of. Elena responds as follows:

"I couldn't move. I just stood there in shock at hearing these things said to me in such a honey-drenched voice. . . . That night, I lay in my bed trying to feel the right thing for our dead president. But the tears that came up from a deep source inside me were strictly for me."

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