The Mother Tongue by Demetria Martinez

analytical Essay
2546 words
2546 words

Demetria Martínez’s Mother Tongue is divided into five sections and an epilogue. The first three parts of the text present Mary/ María’s, the narrator, recollection of the time when she was nineteen and met José Luis, a refuge from El Salvador, for the first time. The forth and fifth parts, chronologically, go back to her tragic experience when she was seven years old and then her trip to El Salvador with her son, the fruit of her romance with José Luis, twenty years after she met José Luis. And finally the epilogue consists a letter from José Luis to Mary/ María after her trip to El Salvador. The essay traces the development of Mother Tongue’s principal protagonists, María/ Mary. With a close reading of the text, I argue how the forth chapter, namely the domestic abuse scene, functions as a pivotal point in the Mother Tongue as it helps her to define herself.

In the opening pages of the text, Mary, nineteen, is living alone in Albuquerque. Vulnerable to love, depressed and adrift, she longs for something meaningful to take her over. Just as she is “asking the universe whether or not there was more to life than just holding down boring jobs”, she takes on the job of helping an illegal (political) refugee, José Luis who had been smuggled from El Salvador to the United States, to adjust to his new life in Albuquerque. She instantly falls in love with him and hopes to start her life over with the new aim of “taking the war out of him.”(p. 4) Providing a refuge for him, Mary, as Fellner suggests, “imagines herself to be whole and complete in the experience of love”. (2001: 72) She willingly puts José Luis as the “center” of her life (p.5) with the hope that “love would free her from her dormant condition” (Fellner 2001: ...

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...olence, Foreign Wars, and Translation in Demetria Martínez”. American Literature, 78 (2): 357–87.

Martínez, Elizabeth Sutherland. 1998. De Colores Means all of us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century. U.S.: South End Press.

Martinez, Demetria. 2002. “Solidarity”. Border Women: Writing from la Frontera.. Castillo, Debra A & María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 168- 188.

Rodríguez, Ana Patricia. 2009. Dividing the Isthmus: Central American transnational histories, literatures & cultures. U.S.: University of Texas Press, 130-167

Torres, Hector Avalos. 2007. Conversations with Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Writers. U.S.: University of New Mexico press, 315-324.

Vigil, Ariana. 2009. “Transnational Community in Demetria Martinez's Mother Tongue”. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 10 (1): 54-76

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how mary's observation is superficial in the sense that she refuses to acknowledge the very history that is his identity, the one that turned him into an exiled person.
  • Analyzes how mary's long buried trauma comes to light due to josé luis' unresolved trauma. she recalls being sexually abused by a neighbor while her mother is gone to visit her dying father.
  • Analyzes how the renamed mara asserts her voice/language and her right to defend her body, as well as her identity, against the invader.
  • Analyzes mara's community-based activism as a way to link individual experiences of trauma to one another.
  • Analyzes how mara, who declares herself not political and longs for josé luis to rescue her from depression and loneliness, comprehends the reason behind her despair. owing to her self-awareness, she is able to see other in relation to their respective communities.
  • Analyzes how demetria martnez's mother tongue is divided into five sections and an epilogue. the first three parts present mary/mara’s recollection of the time when she was nineteen and met josé luis, a refuge from el salvador.
  • Analyzes how mary and josé luis, tied by stereotypes, cultural and historical differences, are not able to overcome the sense of alienation.
  • Analyzes how the narrator's narration of the incident functions as a process of self-invention, as she employs another voice to reveal what actually had befallen her.
  • Analyzes fellner's claim that writing the female body has become instrumental for many chicana writers, as the source of oppression and subordination for women.
  • Cites fellner, astrid m., lomas, laura, and torres, hector avalos.
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