Student Question

In ¡Yo! by Julia Alvarez, how and what do the characters remember, and why are the Garcias afraid of the past?

Quick answer:

The characters in ¡Yo! reflect on the events of their past and how the past has shaped the present. The fear that the Garcia family feels about the past relates to their life in the Dominican Republic when Rafael Trujillo was dictator.

Expert Answers

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This novel is told from a variety of points of view and tells us about the lives of the characters at various stages. Memory is a key common denominator running through the stories that are told, and I would argue that any fear relates to the memories that Yo and her family have of life in the Dominican Republic under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.

Memory is significant for Yo's cousin, Lucinda, who remembers arguing with Yo over a boy while the two were at boarding school. While Lucinda wound up dating him, her mother found out about her relationship by reading Yo's journal. Lucinda therefore holds Yo responsible for her parents' demands that she return to the Dominican Republic.

Another important memory comes from Yo's friend, Tammy Rosen. Tammy recalls sharing a home with Yo while both women were aspiring young writers.

It is thanks to memory that Lou Castellucci, a former student of Yo's, does not rat Yo out for plagiarizing a short story he wrote for her class. It was the memory of Yo's kindness and encouragement that persuaded him to look the other way.

It seems that much of what the Garcias and those in their acquaintance remember involve the big events that happened and the effect that these events had on their lives. A final anecdote relates to Yo's father, Carlos, who recalls an incident in Yo's childhood where she found his gun, which he owned illegally. Yo told people about this, for which she was severely punished. Upon reflection, Carlos experiences feelings of guilt for the way he handled the situation.

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