Themes and Meanings
Although the book is slim, with a deceptively simple narrative, its structure, tone, and message resonate deeply. Each of the twelve sections is prefaced by a paragraph of often elliptical introduction. Sometimes these introductions are in the third person; sometimes they include lines of dialogue. Throughout the stories, actual dialogue, the characters’ interior thoughts, and changes between characters are not announced. The cumulative effect is of a random intrusion of desires, fears, hopes, and dreams as they tumble out of the migrant workers’ collective psyche. What binds the stories to one another is the unidentified man in the beginning and end who tries to make sense of his childhood and adolescence as a member of a marginalized group. The other thematic consideration is that of the Chicano experience as it is affected by the devil, God, Mexican folklore, and a sense of doom. In “First Holy Communion,” a boy on the brink of his initiation into a Catholic life is confronted with adult sexuality in its most primal form. Unable to erase the image of a man and woman in the throes of sexual ecstasy, he subsequently sees all adults as naked, their faces contorted. Part vignette, anecdote, short story, and memoirs, And the Earth Did Not Part traces a year in the lives of people whose struggle for survival in an alien land can only be tempered by communal support and a faith that things will improve. The novel also concerns itself with the coming-of-age of the unnamed boy through whose eyes readers witness acts of murder, cruelty, sex, and racism. While the unidentified Anglos are not solely responsible for the workers’ troubles, the culpability for their suffering is abundantly clear.