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Literary Analysis : Gary Soto's "Mexicans Begin Jogging"

Updated on January 20, 2013

Gary Soto's "Mexicans Begin Jogging" mirrors the state of identity crisis that Mexican Americans experience. The narrative in the first person lends subjectivity to the issue. Soto was working at the factory's press at the time the border patrol turned up. He was engaged in menial work at the industrial plant, though Mexicans immigrated to America for brighter prospects. Everyone present had to flee for their lives in order to avert deportation. The boss's shouting at Soto not only reflects his superiority in being the boss. The boss's dominance also arises from his feeling that he actually 'belongs' to the place as he is not an immigrant. The speaker's boss commands him to jump over the fence and follow what the others did. The act of jumping over the fence not only stands for the act itself, but is symbolic of crossing boundaries. Soto assures his boss of being an American, but the boss accuses him of being a liar.

The border-patrol and the boss wave for him to go. However, the act of waving also connotes farewell or good-riddance. At the moment, what seemed more plausible to Soto was to run. He comprehends that an explanation would be a wasted effort and in vain. Rather then explain to his boss, he prefers to run. .He has to eventually join the bandwagon and run in the group of people who experience a feeling of alienation .Perhaps it is easier for the speaker to be bribed than brutally come face-to-face with the reality of cultural xenophobia. Words have been used ironically-for instance, the border patrol 'opened', when actually they are closing all options to them. Secondly, the title is utilized in an ironic stance-"Mexicans Begin Jogging". Jogging is an exercise they perform out of their personal choice. Here neither is the 'jogging' beneficial to one, nor is it an individual option. It is imposed upon them as an inflexible constraint. The poet also uses the word 'begin', where the process has not just begun, but it has been the trend for generations with immigrants. He runs on the boss's time('clock'), thereby connoting that he had no control over his own destiny. He cannot even walk out with dignity through the front door, but is rushed out through the back door. He phrases his bending to the pressure as "the wag to a short tail of Mexicans."

He runs "past the amazed crowds... from the industrial road to the soft houses where people paled at the turn of an autumn sky." At the moment his predicament is foregrounded, and the reaction of the crowds that lined the suburbs is only secondary. The houses appear soft in the hazed background. Their reaction is relegated as it has been predictable over the ages. They 'paled' at something expected as the simple 'turn of an autumn leaf'. The skin of the suburbanites are also paled in comparison with the working-class as they are far from unskilled jobs in the scorching heat. Their collective response comes across as a cliché. Soto has said:" a writer, my duty is not to make people perfect, particularly Mexican Americans. I'm not a cheerleader. I'm one who provides portraits of people in the rush of life."

He expresses his appreciation 'Vivas' only to milkshakes, baseball.etc.that endowed him with some genuine pleasure. He also salutes the sociologists who may 'clock' him ,or register his presence in books, on a comical note at least('with a silly grin').There is also a ray of hope in that he may be 'clocked' into the next century that may hold better prospects for him.

© Rukhaya MK 2012


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