(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Susan Hamma, a history teacher from a junior college in Queens, is teaching an adult-education class for immigrants trying to learn English. She is an exuberant woman who is convinced that the small group of mostly Hispanic students in her class desperately need her services, reasoning that if they can come to class after working all day in dreary, boring, even revolting jobs, the least she can do is make every lesson count.

Susan has asked the students to make oral statements about where they are from, why they are taking her class, and what their plans are. William Colón, a dwarfish man who is almost the same height standing as sitting, begins the recitation pattern that most of the students follow. All the students stand and read a prepared statement indicating that they have come to the United States in search of a better future, that they are living with relatives, and that they are working as unskilled laborers. All the legal aliens indicate that they want to become American citizens, except for Diego Torres, a young man from the Dominican Republic. When Susan urges Torres to be brief, he snaps at her that he is not finished, insists that he is proud to be Dominican, and maintains that he has no desire to be a U.S. citizen. Aldo Fabrizi, an Italian immigrant who does want to become an American, speaks passionately about his goal, scolding and challenging Diego Torres, who only yawns and closes his eyes.

The last student to recite is...

(The entire section is 445 words.)