How would you describe the way Bodega acts?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Quite simply, I would describe the way Bodega acts as a way to achieve the American Dream of success in a very contradictory way.  Bodega is essentially a drug dealer who has achieved success.  Is this kind of success the American Dream?  Perhaps the fact that Bodega's dream is "lost" due to the unrequited love of Vera/Veronica shows that any American Dream achieved in a crooked way cannot last.

An interesting point about the way Bodega acts in Spanish Harlem is the fact that he creates a welfare state for his people by using drug money.  Therefore, something that harms his community comes back to help them.  How ironic!  Bodega begins by revamping abandoned buildings and then renting them out to Puerto Ricans for a low price, thus helping his community.  Even Bodega's children come to respect this altruistic result.  Further, Bodega believes that ALL success has been achieved by something devious.  Why should he be any different? 

Bodega is also savvy in his business deals, which is an important way he acts in order to achieve success.  Hiring Edwin Nazario as his lawyer was a slick way to secure Bodega's success as well.  Further, he helps with the college tuition of his future "cronies" so that they can grow up and run his enterprises. 

Bodega's American Dreams ends, as it does so often, when he acts on the fleeting emotion of love.  Vera/Veronica (the name is hypenated because Veronica changed her name to Vera in Miami to appear more Cuban) is an ironic homage to the Godfather here:

[John Vidal] reached inside his blazer and took out a cellular phone [right before Vera/Veronica shot him dead].

In conclusion, it's important to realize that Willie Bodega is a modern Jay Gatsby from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (possibly the most prominent example of the American Dream gone wrong).  Again we have a poor boy (James Gatz) who reinvents himself by changing his name, just like Willie Bodega, in order to create a legacy.  Instead of the drug dealing of Bodega, Gatsby gets into bootlegging.  Why?  In order to gain the riches he needs to gain Daisy Buchanan.  Of course, for Willie Bodega, he gains the riches he needs to try and gain Vera/Veronica.  This leads to both Gatsby's and Bodega's downfall.

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