In compare and contrast of the two following verisimilitudes one will find many relative points. “We Came All the Way From Cuba So You Can Dress Like This?” by Achy Obejas is a formula fiction or an in media res that implements many flashbacks. “Clothes” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni carries a plot with a unified structure. However, both stories share a similar stream of consciousness. For example, both narratives use a heroine as the principle character. The plot is the new voyage to America while the subplot is the adaptation to it and conflict of identity from it. Furthermore, there is really not a strong developments of an antihero. If there were to be any antagonist it would be in both stories the mother and father, representing a strong role play of family influence shared in the both these contrasting cultures.; Cuban and Indian.
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Moreover, the heroines would most likely also be their own antiheroine in terms of their internal struggle in result of the voyage, adjustment, acceptance and adaptation to a new culture which is in the country of the United States. The crises of both the stories contrast in their content. In Obejas’ story the main character, Achy suffers the typical qualms that immigrants in general experience. For example, the lack of education due to poor English skills which in turn lead to a lack of work opportunity or general lack of work opportunities due to discrimination.
Furthermore, followed by lack of work and lack of money. The impoverished life and in general many difficulties due to the ignorance towards immigrants form the action. Achy states “there are many things that can’t be told. Things like when we couldn’t find an apartment, everyone’s saying it was because landlords in Miami didn’t rent to families with kids, but knowing, always, that it was much more that that.” Obejas (229) The crisis for Sumita in “Clothes” however, is much more serious. She shares a similar setting with Achy and even the same point of views about the questions of the new world, yet her destiny is very different. Her husband is murdered.
Both styles of these short stories are sure to establish an exposition for the reader as much as possible. The exposition establishes the deepest and most comprehensible idea of the cultural background of the characters. The tone of the stories both signify hope and yearning. For instances, Sumita want a blue sari for her wedding before coming to America “because blue is the color of possibility.” Divakaruni (275) When the Cuban family is in the US Miami Processing Center the Colombian charity worker tells Achy “everything will change for me in the United States, as it did for her.” Obejas (225)
Both stories try to symbolize America as giving the same hope and yearning that the characters emulate. These two stories are comparable and contrastable not because the cultures could be relative nor even that they were written in the same era of the 50’s and 60’s, but because the same suspense and conflict comes from the same source. For example, both protagonists struggle firstly within themselves. The complications that are foreshadowed come into play when the rounded characters travel to a new land.
The climax of the stories are when there is a death. Achy’s father dies and it gave her an opportunity to realize that she chooses to stay in America. This is the denouement of the plot for a struggle of identity. She wanted at one point to get her Cuban passport back from her father but he said no and kicked her to the ground. Upon his death her mother finally gave her back the Cuban passport. Where the resolution comes to a close by Achy’s decision to not take action with the receipt of the 25 year old passport.
This neutral omniscience also allows the related allegory to “Clothes”. For instance Sumita knows her husband, now dead, will lead her in-laws back to India. She said they will tell her, “You’re like our daughter. They will want me to go with them. Your home is with us, for as long as you want. For the rest of your life.” (280) Divakaruni. She decide at this point that is not what she would want.
Both characters underlying diction differ leading to different images of the characters’ main theme. Sumita wants to come to America and wants to be an American or at least fit in as one can establish through her secret collection of hidden Western clothes. Achy was a refugee here by her parents and is always aware that they used her as an excuse of why they fled. She was never sure until her father’s death that she actually did prefer to live in the US; as seen through the denouement.
The dialogue between the family members form the action of the characters’ struggle for identity. The Cuban family seems proud of America and its cultural. This can be displayed when the Cuban family goes shopping for the first time in the US after arriving in Miami. Achy’s father cannot contain himself. He proudly blurts out in awe of the groceries available, “All around us people stare, but then my father says we just arrived from Cuba, and there’s so much here!” (229) Obejas
However Sumita and her husband do love the US but need to hide it from their traditional Indian parents. Sumita’s feelings for America are symbolically hidden in her experience with clothes. For example, when she and her husband Somesh are in their room, he gives her clothes and hides them in between their Indian clothes until they move out. You can see her symbolically suppressed feelings for hope and yearning in the US through this statement, “I’m wearing a pair of jeans now, marveling at the curves of my hips and thighs, which have always been “hidden” under the flowing lines of my saris.” Divakaruni (277) In the falling action the theme is resolved as the characters who started their narratives many years ago end the short story with a renewed journey of their acceptance and willingness to settle into an American life.
A common theme shared by both main both main characters is summed up in Achy’s quote, “Is life destiny or determination?” Obejas (225) There are many literal and symbolic imageries in these short stories. Firstly, that main theme is deciphering life’s outcome. Is it something we plan and choose or is it chosen for us? Both characters experience an internal conflict with their new country, America and the remaining existence of the old country’s aspects in their new life. This surfaces through cultural norms and family traditions.
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A big shared symbolic image denoting this struggle is through clothes. For example, when both girls arrive in America the girls are encouraged to love America by displaying it in literary symbols on clothes. The Catholic volunteer gives Achy a gray hooded shirt with an American flag on it. However, Achy doesn’t want to exchange it for her green sweater that still smells like Cuba and her grandmother’s house. She will keep both for the rest of her life. Sumita is given a shirt from her husband that says “Great America” across it the first moment her and her husband are alone in America. He told her it was a theme park’s shirt but she insists to interpret it pertaining to the country and is proud of it.
In a way both characters desire their new American identity but have a sense of guilt to abandon their old identity because they think that it’s necessary to do so in order to create their new one. This insistence and confusion comes from their families wills. It was never clear where this push was coming from. This keeps resurfacing the question for the characters “Is life destiny of determination.” Obejas (225) As the life events in America unravel the decision and make-up of the characters identity become more clear and focused.
Some remarks Achy and Sumita make throughout the story lead the reader to believe they want to return to their homeland, but deep down internally really do not. Achy screams at her father when he doesn’t want to give her the passport. She says “And for the first and only time in my life, I’ll say, look you didn’t come here for me, you came for you.” Obejas (228) The resolve of the stories reveal all along that they actually decided a long time ago American was their true identity that they wanted to nurture. Their hopeful and yearning nature could only be nurtured if they remained in America.
From the opening of each story the characters are encouraged by their family to desire a new life. Sumita’s mother states, “Besides, wasn’t it every woman’s destiny, as mother was always telling me to leave the known for the unknown?” Divakaruni (275) So in the end it all comes down to the point the characters must ask themselves , was this destiny or determination? The families choices and the girl’s life events led them to America. Did they really want to be here after all?
At the conclusion of the story it is revealed by the passing of the male, dominant figure that there is a free choice to make. What will the young women decide? The epiphany surfaces when the character weigh the options and choose a life of hope and yearning in America that was more developed since being in the States. Even in Achy’s profession as a photographer these qualities are in her work. In regards to her photos “Hailed by the critics as filled with yearning and hope.” Obejas (231)
Sumita reveals to the reader through the symbolism of clothes which her late husband bought her, that she dreamed of wearing them in their store. The clothes also represent hope and yearning at the close of her tale. The reader knows she will choose a life with this possibility, and stay, by wearing those clothes and looking in the mirror. “I straighten my shoulders and stand taller, take a deep breath. Air fills me-the same air that traveled through Somesh’s lungs a little while ago . The thought is like an unexpected, intimate gift. I tilt my chin, readying myself for the arguments in the coming weeks, the remonstrations. In the mirror a woman holds my gaze, her eyes apprehensive yet steady. She wears a blouse and skirt the color of almonds.” Divakaruni (281)
At the close of the Cuban story Achy states the voyage she had was one that is ongoing, ergo expressing her desire to continue with her path in the US. This quote sums it up, “â€¦even I know we’ve already come a long way. What none of us can measure yet is how much of the voyage is already behind us.” Obejas (233)
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