Student Question

In Julia Álvarez's novel ¡Yo!, can you identify scenes that show appropriation and hierarchy? How is memory constructed in the novel?

Quick answer:

Appropriation and hierarchy are revealed especially through the characters of Yolanda’s mother and Sarita. The mother tries to improve her position by appropriating the author’s role but remains aware of her disadvantages in the social hierarchy. Sarita reveals how the adolescent Yolanda appropriated aspects of her life through characterizing her as “the maid’s daughter” rather than an individual.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The close relationship between appropriation and hierarchy occurs throughout ¡Yo! as diverse characters tell their stories and interpret their interactions with Yolanda and other characters. Two stories where these concepts are shown as intertwined are those of Yolanda’s mother and Sarita. The mother turns the tables by appropriating her children’s lives as a topic for her own storytelling, but she also reveals the hierarchy limits of her own social position. In exploring and rejecting the label of "the maid’s daughter," Sarita shows that Yolanda, as a budding teenage writer, appropriated Sarita’s life for her own ends. Despite her successful own efforts to move up the social hierarchy, she recalls the sting of being objectified.

The mother, who objects to the ways in which her daughter has presented the family, becomes a storyteller who appropriates events from Yolanda’s life. She uses her children's lives as raw material for the story she crafts, thereby appropriating the persona of author for herself. Yet the hierarchy is complicated within her narrative as she emphasizes the disadvantages she has experienced, especially within the US social system. Language is one factor that places her in a subordinate position because her English is limited. In addition, she reveals her anxiety over the power that the social worker could have over the family’s destiny.

Sarita, who became a doctor, recalls the complex relationship she had with the García family, for whom her mother worked as a maid. Even as an adult, she cannot forget that Yolanda used her as a case study for an anthropology project. The other girl's appropriation of her personal life left her feeling alienated both from herself and the girls she had grown up alongside. Revealing that the Garcías also financially supported her studies emphasizes the social hierarchy against which she struggled even as she remained dependent on the wealthier family.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial