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Under The Feet Of Jesus Character Analysis Essay

In the novel, Under The Feet of Jesus, by Helena Maria Viramontes, the author conveys the harshness of being a migrant worker and how easily one can become stuck in the same job for their whole life. Viramontes, uses the main character, Estrella, a 13 year old migrant worker to display how this long-lasting cycle and precedent can be broken. Estrella is anything but a stereotypical young girl who has big dreams and plays with friends, instead, everyday she goes out into the fields and works extremely hard to support her 4 younger siblings and mother.

Estrella never realizes the power she can achieve as she feels oppressed due to her status, but as she takes control of her life, it allows her to not fall victim to the cycle of only being a migrant worker. Viramontes uses symbols and different writing techniques to show how many migrant workers become stuck in their position, but uses Estrella to show a way out and a exception to the inevitable life many face.

Despite Estrella’s whole life being a constant struggle, Viramontes unveils at the end of the novel that there is hope for migrant workers and despite the American Dream not being what it is seen to be, migrant workers can have more of a life than what’s just on the fields. The author depicts that the life of a migrant worker is for the most part, endless, and as time goes by, it becomes nearly impossible to escape from without perseverance and taking matters into one’s own hands.

Viramontes uses symbolism at the beginning of the book to bolster the impossibility of a greater life and timelessness of the job of a migrant worker without any belief and grit. Towards the beginning of the book, Viramontes initially begins to develop the theme of the inescapability of being a migrant worker using symbols and creative sentence wording. As Estrella and her family move to work at the next field, hence the name migrant worker, they find their way into an abandoned house.

In the old and rundown house, Estrella notices the, “Birds, the sparrows especially” as “they found their way into abandoned houses only to bombard themselves against the walls” (8). The symbol of the birds quite literally typifies the life of a migrant worker because just as the birds are stuck in the walls of the house and cannot cape, the migrant workers are stuck in their jobs, eager to see the outside world. The birds, like the workers, travel many miles only to be stuck in the same place, and never get to see more of the world than what they are cemented in.

Estrella and her family only know the fields, they don’t know the other beautiful things of the world, and as soon as she noticed something that sparks her interests other than the fields, she “turned and pointed, but her eyes fell on the flatbeds of grapes down as far as she could see. ” (53). Viramontes uses the imagery of the fields to expose the of the endlessness and the eternity of it, which when Estrella looks at it, it symbolizes the rest of her life right in front of her. This image fosters the inescapability of the fields and the permanence of the fields in Estrella’s life.

The specific wording of this sentence, of how Estrella’s eyes automatically fell back on the fields as soon as she had a flicker of interests elsewhere, depicts that the fields are the default in her life unless she changes her future through obtaining power. Later in the novel, as Estrella’s new friend, Alejo, also a migrant worker, becomes acutely ill from being sprayed by poisonous chemicals, the only option is to bring him to the nurse. Undeterred by having very little money, the family brings Alejo to the nurse for medical attention.

Estrella and the family knew they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost, so as they tried to make a deal with the nurse she insisted on being paid only in money. Estrella “remembered the tar pits. Energy money, the fossilized bones of energy matter… The oil was made from their bones. ” (148). The symbol of the tar pits reiterates the message of migrant workers being stuck in their positions as tar pits are sticky and once something goes in, it usually does not come out, just like how once migrant workers become workers they usually cannot escape out of it without perseverance and achieving power.

Just like the story of a girl being found in a tar pit was told earlier in the book, it symbolizes that any migrant worker can become sucked into the precedented cycle. The image of the bones along with the specific wording in which makes the text sound like a self-dialogue in Estrella’s head, allows for an in-depth look at the thought process of a migrant worker. Viramontes conveys Estrella’s valid belief that it is the migrant workers hard work that makes the world go round and that people owe them for what they do everyday on the fields.

The endlessness and harshness of being a migrant worker is portrayed throughout the novel, but where there is a will there is a way, and Estrella is displayed as an exception to the inescapability. The way Estrella, unfortunately unlike many other migrant workers, is able to break from this cycle is by her achieving her own power as she puts matters into her own hands and does not rely on anything else to solve her problems as her mother, Petra, does.

Where Petra relies on religion to save her from the inevitable cycle, as opposed to where Estrella takes it into her own hands and knows she cannot rely on anything to save her. Migrant workers whole lives are constant battles, but anyone can come to realize they can handle whatever life throws at them, and despite one’s powerless position they can always achieve greater power through determination. The same is true for Estrella, as she feels oppressed due to her low status of being a migrant worker.

She feels as though nothing will change unless she makes it change and she knows that she does not want to spend the rest of her life in the fields. At the nurse’s office when Estrella realizes her family cannot pay for Alejo’s medical attention, she “opened the back door, pulled open the hidden trunk door, grabbed the crowbar which laid next to the red jack, heavy, iron cold, and walked back to the clinic. ” (148).

Viramontes uses this image to express how Estrella no longer wants to live according to her status and does not want to feel held down due to being a migrant worker, so she takes matters into her own hands and achieves her own power. As Estrella threatens the nurse, her new found power and self-identity is shown from the wording of the sentence where the actions are described and then followed by the details of the crowbar which illustrates her sudden change in personality.

This image expresses Estrella’s ability and willingness to finally stand up for herself and her family despite their situation, even if there are ensuing repercussions. The symbol of the crowbar at this moment portrays power and breaking free from the cycle as Estrella melts the social barriers that stand in her way. The crowbar and image as a whole also depicts the contrast and transition from her at the beginning of the book when she was scared of the red tool chest and learning the alphabet at school (24), to the strong and independent person she has become, disregarding her social status.

Thus, allowing her to realize her potential and her own self worth and identity. Through her determination, she finally knows she can be something greater in life than only being a migrant worker until she dies. At the end of the novel, Estrella stands on the top of her barn, looking out into the night, as she see’s the same birds that were originally stuck in the bard, begin “descending, cautiously at first, then in groups, and finally a few swallows flapped to their nests” (176).

Viramontes includes this image to harness the idea that migrant workers can escape from their position just as the birds, who were stuck, were able to breakout of the walls. The image of the birds is a symbol of hope for migrant workers everywhere, as the birds were able to fly back to their nests, this represents the migrant workers also eventually being able to escape from the fields and “fly” away. Estrella is one of these birds, as she is stuck on the fields just as the birds were, but has the persistence and hope necessary for one day where she can release and be free n the world.

The effective use of symbolism and different images first present the unlikeliness of an improved life for migrant workers, and then includes Estrella to display that through obtaining power and having hope it is possible to change one’s situation. Viramontes illustrates the beautiful landscape of California juxtaposed with Estrella’s harsh situation and poverty to create the constant struggle for her to break the cycle and change her future.

Estrella could have early on let the struggles of her life consume her and take over her whole outlook, but instead she chooses to take control over her situation, which allows her more enjoyment and optimism for the future. In general, Viramontes emphasizes the importance of determination and achieving power to change one’s future. The American Dream is not a sure thing, but one’s will and heart is, and if anybody has the drive to change their situation for the better, they can.

Dreams have been thwarted because of society and simply the operations of the world, but that doesn’t mean the idea of a superior life is totally impossible, how else could someone rise in the ranks of a company for example. People of all ages and from all over the world feel held back in life due to their position, but with self-realization of one’s own worth they can break free from the weight that drags them down.

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