Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Several themes compete in this story, but they are subordinate to the main theme of a young boy, an innocent in many regards, who struggles with the difficult knowledge of his father’s extramarital affair. The story can be interpreted as a coming-of-age story or as part of the journey from innocence to experience. However, because the story entails only one evening in time, the transformation from innocence to experience is not complete. In fact, Yunior’s knowledge of his father’s extramarital affair troubles him but leads, at the end of this story, to confusion rather than resolution.

The father, a loud, domineering man, is a foil to his sensitive son Yunior and exhibits his controlling patriarchal character, if not his misogyny, throughout the story. Papi makes all the decisions. Yunior describes how the decision to have the fiesta was Papi’s, even though it takes place at Tia Yrma’s house. Dressed and ready to depart, the entire family must wait for Papi, who arrives home at the last minute and must take a shower first, as Yunior suspects, to rinse away the perfume of the Puerto Rican woman.

Another recurring example of the father’s controlling patriarchy is his use of corporal punishment to make his family obey him. Yunior states his father “expected your undivided attention when you were getting your ass whupped.” The entire family accepts and endures this treatment.

The family alliances in the story divide along gender lines, the masculine types associated with control and coercion and the feminine types with passivity and compassion. For example, big brother Rafa follows Papi’s example, demeaning his younger brother verbally and punching him to humiliate him....

(The entire section is 704 words.)