Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 629
And the Earth Did Not Part is a series of short stories by Tomas Rivera. Each one approaches a different topic, but they're linked in theme and by the Chicano people who are major characters in each story.
In one story, "A Prayer," a person prays for the safe return of their son from Korea where he's fighting in the war. Rivera writes:
Protect him, Jesus, that they may not kill him. I have made a promise to the Virgen de San Juan to pay her homage at her shrine and to the Virgen de Guadalupe, too. He also wears a little medallion of the Virgen de San Juan de Valle and he, too, has made a promise to her; he wants to live. Take care of him, cover his heart with your hand, that no bullet may enter it.
This prayer shows the deep connection between the speaker and their religious beliefs. It also shows a strong family connection; the speaker is aware of the religious jewelry that her son wears and to whom he has prayed. The man's mother is desperately, hopefully praying because she believes that her saints can help bring her son home safely.
In "The Lost Year," the main character is unable to discern whether he is waking or dreaming at times. This means that the year goes by with no progress and he feels it was lost to him. Rivera writes:
It always began when he would hear someone calling him by his name but when he turned his head to see who was calling, he would make a complete turn and there he would end up -- in the same place. Thsi was why he never could discover who was calling him nor why. And then he even forgot the name he had been called.
He believes that the last year truly began when he realizes that he, himself, was the one calling out. He takes on some responsibility even during the year. For example, he drinks a glass of water that his mother leaves under his bed for the spirits. He does this because she believes that they've taken what she's left and he doesn't want to disillusion her. In many ways, though, he spends the year stuck because he's unable to make any real change due to being stuck in the dreamlike state.
In "Hand in His Pocket," the difference between the way people pretend to be and the way they are is explored. The narrator explains over and over that a couple he stays with aren't bad people—but then explains his experience living with them and it's clear that they are. He says:
When it got real dark they made me help them drag him out and throw him into the hole that I myself had dug. As for me, I didn't really want to but then they told me that they would tell the police that I had killed him. I thought of how my Dad had paid them for my room and board and how even the Anglos liked them so much. All that my parents wanted was for me to finish school so I could find some job that wasn't so hard. I was real scared but I went ahead and threw him in the hole.
The couple steals items and sells them to the people. They are dirty to the point of smelling bad, abusive to the overworked child staying with them, and at this point, murderers. Still, the narrator won't condemn them. In the end, they visit him and give him the ring from the man he murdered. The narrator wears the ring for a long time, even though he hides it by sticking his hand in his pocket when a stranger nears.