Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 564
Fantasy vs. Reality
Rita comes to the island with what she sees as a realist perspective. Her smart-aleck, know-it-all attitude is authoritatively adolescent and grounded in her American upbringing, as evidenced upon her arrival when she reports, "My friends from Central High would have died laughing if they had seen the women with their fans going back and forth across their shiny faces fighting over ... who was going to sit next to whom." She makes light of her grandparents' spiritual work by calling it Ghostbusting and asserts that her grandfather must be senile because he comforts his troubled rooster. However, as she is drawn into the scenario between Angela, her mother, and her mother's boyfriend, Rita is affected by her grandparents' wisdom and acumen in determining the source of strife in the family. Papá eventually teaches Rita some of his skills of perception, and she comes to call herself a medium. By the end of the story, Rita has assimilated the seemingly mystical in her grandparents' culture into her own version of reality.
Bad and Good Influence
Mala influencia initially refers to the evil spirit that Papá banishes from Angela's house, but the term applies to Rita's summer in several different ways. Rita has clearly been sent to her grandparents in hopes they will be a good influence over her, since her parents think she is on the verge of getting into trouble with boys. Rita and Angela are good influences on each other; in the course of their summer together Angela moves toward wellness and Rita adapts comfortably to island life. Rita and Angela joke about Rita's boyfriend Johnny Ruiz, who was seen by Rita's parents as having a bad influence over her. They agree that he sounds like a troubled young man, and joke that perhaps he is himself under a mala influencia.
Individual vs. Community
Rita arrives in Puerto Rico from New Jersey sporting an individualist attitude; she sees herself as separate and isolated. She tries to get away from her family and feels suffocated by the way her grandparents push themselves into her bedroom and into her life. They touch her too much and she feels suffocated by so much close contact. She tells an anecdote...
(The entire section contains 564 words.)
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