Tawny's Reviews > Under the Feet of Jesus

Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena María Viramontes
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Mar 20, 2008

really liked it

Author: Helena Maria Viramontes
Title: Under the Feet of Jesus
Genre: coming-of-age novel
Publication Info: Penguin Group, New York, 1995
Recommended Age: 15 and older

Plot Summary: Thirteen-year-old Estrella is the oldest of the children in her family. She is the only one capable of helping her mother support everyone by working in the fields of California. They were abandoned by their father years before, so their mother got remarried, unfortunately to a man 40 years older and nearly too old to work or care for the family. Estrella matures physically and emotionally. She falls in love with another migrant worker named Alejo. One day, Alejo is accidentally sprayed with pesticide by a crop duster and subsequently becomes very sick. As the farmers were ready to leave him to die, Estrella’s family takes him in, but has no money to get him the medical attention he needs. After so much hardship, Estrella begins to see that she must rely on her own strength and ambition rather than on her family or on God or religion.

Personal Notes: There is a lot of imagery, symbolism, and use of metaphors in this novel. Almost every object within the book can be connected to something else on a larger scheme. Even the characters’ names have deeper meaning. Estrella means “star,” Perfecto means “job well done,” and Petra means “rock.” As the family is Hispanic, there are a lot of phrases in the book that are written in Spanish, with no translation provided. Swear words also appear frequently. There is a lot of potential for class study and discussion. The novel delves into such issues as love, poverty, healthcare, adolescence, familial relationships, broken homes, prejudice, language barriers, and immigration. I would not read this book with an immature class.

Evaluation: The story leaves us hanging at the end. We are not told the outcome, which is unusual. It allows the reader to choose whether things worked out for Estrella and her family or if Alejo dies and Perfecto leaves. Some may think it is hopeful, others may think it is very dark. The story may be compared to The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Other Comments: This book really opens eyes to the fact that migrant workers and Mexicans in general are taken advantage of and treated unfairly. It also shows that we have a choice as to how we will react when we face insurmountable bleakness and hardship. It brings to question the American experiment, and whether or not we truly welcome the melting pot in our country. It should remind us that each life has worth and value, no matter what the circumstances are.
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Erasmo Guerra Terrific analysis of the story and how it can be discussed in a class or reading group. Thanks for your insights.


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