Essay: Pat Mora – ‘Sonrisas’

Caught Between Two Cultures:
Mora, Postcolonial Analysis of How Hard It Is To Fit In For A Bi-cultural Person In Sonrisas
Pat Mora wrote ‘Sonrisas’ to demonstrate the way that being bi-cultural makes the speaker feel that she cannot fit in with a particular cultural group. The speaker sees her ethnicity as two separate identities and she feels that she has to chose one of her cultural backgrounds as her main identity. Mora uses assonance, parallelism, and metaphor to explain why the speaker feels that she cannot feel accepted by either of her cultural identities.
The speaker uses assonance (i.e. rhyming of one word with another in the accented vowel) to demonstrate the way that she cannot fit in with the Caucasian part of her cultural identity, regardless if she shares the same status with other Caucasian women (2015). The assonance is found in “budgets, tenure, curriculum”(Mora 5). In these words the “U” sound is repeated and it emphasizes the idea that these women hold a high position at a college. The word ‘tenure’ means a lifelong position which is usually given to people in higher education careers. The fact that the women are discussing a budgets means that the women possess the power to determine the amount of money that the school can use. In other words, the fact that the speaker can hear this conversation means that she holds an similar position that the women in the beige suits do. This represents the idea that the speaker has no reason to feel that she cannot fit in with her co-workers. This idea further proves that the speaker is experiencing unhomeliness, since there is no other reason why the speaker should feel that she cannot fit in with the women she works with. Furthermore, this emphasizes the idea that the speaker is not a part of this group, because she is passively listening to the women. According to the second line, she ‘hears’ what the group of beige suits are doing. She is not actively participating with the women and plays the role of a detached observer (i.e. a narrator who tells the story, but does not inject his or her opinions). This represents that the speaker is silent and feels that she has no right to join the cultural group of Caucasians. Moreover, the speaker’s silence represents that the speaker is oppressed, because she cannot fit in with the Caucasian part of her cultural identity.
The speaker uses the metaphor (i.e. the comparison of one thing to another without the use of like or as) of a doorway to illustrates the way she feels caught between two cultures (2015). When the speaker says ‘I live in a doorway,’ the doorway that she is referring to represents a state of transition (1). This metaphor forces the reader to imagine a person standing in the middle of an entrance in to a room, building, or passage. The metaphor’s tenor (i.e. the object that the speaker is talking about) is the doorway. The metaphor’s vehicle (i.e. the concept that the speaker is trying to explain) is the speaker’s double consciousness. The doorway symbolizes a passage from one world to another. The speaker illustrates the image that she in a doorway that leads her to another place. In addition, the speaker says that she lives in a doorway ‘between two rooms’ (2). The word ‘between’ means space that separates one object from another. The tenor of the metaphor ‘between two rooms’ is the idea that there is two rooms that the author is standing between. The vehicle of the metaphor is the concept that the speaker is living in a world in which both of her cultures are distinguished from one another. The two rooms represents the border between the culture of the Anglo ‘ Saxon Americans and the culture of Mexican Americans. Furthermore, the separation of these two cultures also represents that the speaker can only be in one culture at once. The speaker sees her bi-cultural identity as two separate identities, or rooms. She knows that society only wants her to chose one of her two identities. In other words, the doorway represents the idea that society wants the speaker to transition into either one of her cultural identities. Instead of choosing one culture, she stays right in the middle of the transition point. Her stagnation also represents that the speaker is indecisive, in which that she cannot decide which cultural side to join. The doorway represents the speaker’s unhomeliness, because she has chosen to make her home or ‘live'(i.e. to make one’s home in a particular position) in a neutral spot that allows her to stay idle (2015). In short, the speaker uses the metaphor of the doorway to not only tell the reader that society wants her to pick a single cultural identity, but also she tells the reader that she cannot pick a single side.
The speaker uses parallelism to explain to the reader that she experiencing the effect of ambivalence (i.e. a continual fluctuation between wanting one thing and wanting its opposite),which makes the narrator attracted to certain elements of each cultural group and repulsed at the group’s opposite (2015). For example, the narrator compares the clothes of both cultural groups. The Caucasian women are all dressed in crisp beige suits compared to the faded dresses that the Latino women wear (6, 7,11). The beige suits reveal that the Caucasian women all look dull, drab, and colorless. The fact that all the women are wearing the same outfit reveals that the women are all unified, blending in with one another as well as fitting in with each other. In contrast to the women in beige, the Latino women are dressed with faded dresses. Although the Latino women aren’t dressed exactly like each other, the women are all wearing faded clothing. This represents that the Latino woman are from a lower social class than the Caucasian woman. The narrator is experiencing ambivalence as she compares the two groups of women’s clothing. The narrator likes the neatly iron quality of the Caucasian’s women’s beige suites according to line six, ‘from careful women in crisp beige.’ At the same time, she dislikes how all the woman are wearing the same color suits. In other words, she admires the professional quality of the suits, but disdains the fact that the women dress exactly the same. At the same time, she seems okay that the Latino women are all wearing the same thing, but dislikes the fact that the dresses are faded. In addition to clothing, the speakers compares the personality of the two groups. According to the speaker, the Caucasian women have ‘…quick beige smiles/ that seldom sneak into their eyes (7-8). The speaker feels that these women are spurious. These women give the impression of happiness while they are experiencing opposite emotions. The speaker notices that the women are trying to be likable in order to fulfill the role of the ‘happy American’ that society wants them to be. In contrast, the Latino women have ‘…trap smiles/ in their dark, Mexican eyes’ (17-18). The speaker knows that these women are actually experiencing real happiness, but the speaker knows that the Latino women are trying to hide their smiles in order to conform to their cultural idea of always appearing serious. The fact that the Caucasian women smile and the Latino’s do not, reflects the cultures that the two women belong to. This is an example of the difficulties that the speaker has about her cultural identity. The speaker likes the fact that the Caucasian women smile, but does not like that the women aren’t smiling from happiness. She admires that the Latino women are happy, but she does not like the idea that they conceal their glee. This is an example of the way the speaker experiences ambivalence. Furthermore, this demonstrates the confusion that the speaker experiences from being bi-cultural. The speaker uses parallelism to show to reader the way that she experiences conflict from having two cultural identities.
Mora use assonance, parallelism, and metaphor to demonstrate the idea that people with multiple cultural identities feel that they cannot express both of these identities at once and that they cannot choose one identity over the other. In other words, Mora uses the speaker to illustrate the conflict that a person feels when they have multiple cultural identities in a society that forces people to only have one cultural identity.

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