García Girls 2

Luke Benz

Professor Wai Chee Dimock

Engl 012—Literary Cities

Presentation Outline

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Day 2

Some More About Julia Alvarez:

  • One thing that Julia Alvarez mentioned at her talk with Edwidge Dandicat was her motive/intent for writing. She said that many times she disappears in her writing, when one writes, they write as much for themselves as for the expressed purpose of the work.
  • I would imagine that García Girls and In the Time of the Butterflies are part of the way that Alvarez deals with this complex period in her history and the history of her native Dominican Republic.
    • Show clip from video of Julia Alvarez of leaving everything behind and moving to U.S. (21:00- 24:00)
      • Stateless Space, not fully at home in either DR or USA


Introduction/Topics to Explore

In this presentation, I would like to continue our exploration into some of the topics that were discussed last class as well as looking in some directions.



Relationship between Laura and the Girls

  1. Mami vs. Mom
    1. We see that Laura is not the American mom that the girls desire
      1. (Bottom of 135-136)
    2. Is this clash between the girls and Laura one of the “old tradition” of the Dominican Republic vs. the “new tradition” of the United States, or rather a generational difference/product of growing up in the 1960s in the US (or maybe some mixture of the two?
  2. The García Girls as one unit (168)
    1. Do they remain as one unit after years in the U.S?
    2. Is Laura the 5th “García Girl”?
  3. The Rise of Laura
    1. We hardly see Laura as a distinct character in the first portion of the book. However, she is given her own chapter, and in the second half of the novel, we really see her develop.
    2. Inventions symbolize how she reinvents herself in American, from Mami to Mom. “Her daughters would seek her would seek her out at night…”(134)
    3. At first wants girls to adhere to traditional Dominican ideals, but soon becomes much more accepting of the girls’ desire to assimilate into American culture (135) transition into next section about USA vs. DR


Clash of American and Dominican Culture

  1. Difference between Laura and Carlos’ willingness to accept American Culture
    1. Scene where Carlos rips Yolanda’s speech—Laura comes to defend Yolanda and American culture. “Are you crazy…” (146-147)
    2. Laura doesn’t want to go back to the Dominican Republic where she is “only a wife and a mother (and a failed one at that, since she had never provided the required son) (143-144) (See section on Patriarchy)
  2. Transition of Dominican Republic to American as the García Girls home
    1. One-year anniversary of living in United States—Carla “wants to go home” à America isn’t really their home. (150-151), (164).
      1. Of the four girls, perhaps Carla faces the hardest transition since she is the oldest. Sofía on the other hand barely remembers the Dominican before leaving.
      2. Carla being teased at school. “And as the months went by…” (153). She seems more bothered by the teasing then by the man who followed her in the car.
    2. Summers in the DR become like punishments, and for Sofía it actually is a punishment. For Sofía, what does the year that Sofía stay in the DR say about where home is for the García girls?
      1. Explore “It is close to midnight…”(131-132)
      2. Emphasize “She thought she could be all Island. We knew better” (131) à Home is U.S.?
    3. Upon coming to the United States, the García girls are all very innocent. Is this innocence a reflection of their young age, of their different background, or some combination of both.
      1. Scene with Carla and the Police, and her inability to explain herself as she so desires (162)
      2. Scene with Yolanda and the snow—thinks it’s a nuclear attack (166-167).




Interesting Chapter—Floor Show

  1. Difficulty of adjusting to life in America.
    1. García family had been used to a high quality of life in the Dominican Republic. However, they certainly do begin life in American with the same luxuries. (173-174)
  2. Sandí see herself as “American” in mirror (181)
    1. Also wants Fannings to adopt her, attracted to luxurious lifestyle
  3. Fanning kisses Carlos (181) / Dances on stage (185/186)
    1. Both of these actions are very strange. Do they serve a purpose on than adding commentary on the exoticism of American Culture for the Garcías.
    2. In other words, what does Mrs. Fanning represent.





  1. Patriarchy within the family, almost like the dictatorship
    1. Scene where Carlos rips Yolanda’s speech and Yolanda calls Carlos by Trujillo’s (the dictator) nickname. (147).
  2. Compare the lives of Women in the Dominican Republic with those of Women in the United States.
    1. Manuel’s control of Sofía when she spends a year living in the Dominican Republic (120-121)
      1. Her sisters are quick to assert their liberties (as Americans), something that they likely wouldn’t have growing up in the DR.
      2. “Unfair advantage of being male” (127)
    2. Laura doesn’t want to go back to the Dominican Republic where she is “only a wife and a mother (and a failed one at that, since she had never provided the required son) (143-144)
    3. Mimí not given opportunity to complete education because it might “spoil her marriage” (228)
  3. Into which category does Mamita fall, since she is simultaneously engrained in both cultures?



Leaving the Island

  1. Of the four girls, Sandí is the most overtly upset about leaving the DR. (215)
    1. However, we rarely glimpse this sadness (in Sandí) after this one brief moment. Why might this be the case.
  2. Chucha—Very interesting character, described on (219)
    1. Haitian (tensions with Dominican Republic, personal tensions with other maids)
    2. Voodoo and coffin are strange to Dominicans
    3. I believe that she is to the DR as the Garcías will be to the United States
      1. “’You are going to a strange land’…’When I was a girl, I left my country and never came back’” (220-221)


Other Interesting Discussion Questions

  1. How does the reverse chronological structure of the novel shape out view and/or understanding of the characters and the narrative as a whole?
  2. After having learned about the García girls in their youth, what does “losing their accent,” mean in the larger scope of the novel?





Comments are closed.