Stephanie Long Paper Outline

Sickness and Grieving in The Kitchen God’s Wife, The House on Mango Street and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


The disease as a representation of the negativity and strain on relationships. They seem to result and worsen from disunity in families and friendships and the disease also seems to harm the bonds and roles people play in the family or in the world. Puts up barriers with the outside world. Redefines the sense of self and the way communication operates.

The House on Mango Street —pg 59, 60, 61

  • “But I think diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone.”
    • Irony — Diseases have no eyes, in this case her aunt also goes blind — the disease recreates its own failings in the human
    • Contrasts the title of the vignette which is “born bad”, goes against predeterminism or that disease is not necessarily linked to evil
  • “We didn’t know she had been dying for such a long time we forgot. Maybe she was ashamed. Maybe she was embarrassed it took so many years. The kids who wanted to be kids instead of ironing their papa’s shirt, and the husband who wanted a wife again.”
    • Disease becomes the person so much that it makes you forget the process of dying, expect death to be something everyone is prepared for, but people are still not prepared
    • The sickly must hide themselves from their loved ones. They lose their familial and relational associations. Only becoming the sick one in the relation to the family. Disrupt the family unit to make everyone inherit new roles. Puts a strain on everyone else’s existence.
  • “And then she died, my aunt who listened to my poems. And then we began to dream the dreams.”
    • With her death, there is a final moving on from the disease. Dreams can only be dreamt once the illness is lost. Because now the person before and the person without the disease has to be replaced in the memories of the living. Dreams= a reimagining of life. A reimagining of the disease. A reimagining of the relational.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — pg 90

  • In Oscar’s pursuit to find the memory of his dead father, the first person by the name of Black he meets is Aaron Black, a man on the ninth floor who at first sounds like he wants nothing to do with Oskar. But by the end of the conversation, we find out that Aaron Black is actually a sickly man.
  • “But I just can’t.” “Why not?” “I’m very sick.” “But my dad is dead.” “I’m hooked up to all sorts of machines. That’s why it took me so long to come to the intercom.”
    • As a sickly man, he is facing the idea of death once again.
    • Oskar’s father never experienced that sickness.
    • Sickness is a barrier for connection.
      • Limits on mobility
      • Should not have limits on emotional connection
        • Unfortunately there are such limits to connection
        • Unable to attend play
        • Wants to help Oskar but Oskar doesn’t even reply to his own yell for help

How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent pg 84

  • Mental health disorders as a form of disease
  • With Yolanda’s allergic reaction to her own name, the psychosis is no longer a fake immune reaction, it is an autoimmune reaction.
    • “Oh no. she thinks recognizing the first signs of her allergy. Noy my own name!”
  • Sandi’s psychosis
    • Anorexia, the disappearance and withering of the body, mirrors the withering of the mind

The Kitchen God’s Wife

  • Multiple Sclerosis
    • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.
    • How does this disease mirror her relationship with her mother?
    • The unpredictability, the disrupted flow of information. — highlight initial feelings with mother.
    • Use the death scene with the professional mourners?


Stephanie —

A great topic.  Diseases of the body and the mind run through so many of the works we’ve read; you should probably limit yourself to no more than three books.   I’d suggest leaving out Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, since disease is relatively incidental in that novel.  In Cisneros, Tan, and Alvarez, disease is front and center.  Perhaps you move from the clarity of the aunt’s terminal disease in The House on Mango House, to the unpredictability of the MS in The Kitchen God’s Wife, to the still more ambiguous, part-psychotic and part-autoimmune reaction in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent.  This sequence should yield interesting points of comparison as well as a structured argument.



Before I read Professor Dimock’s comments, just going through your outline I am impressed by how much potential this topic holds, and I would be super excited to read the essay you put together. I was going to argue that the sickness of Aaron Black isn’t so much “disease” per se, but rather best described as symptoms of aging – it’s not clearly the “unfair affliction” that people wouldn’t normally get, as for example blindness is in The House on Mango Street (seriously great cursory points you make here). I would also say that the “intercom” being a machine point is a cool point to note, but not one that’s particularly relevant to your argument. Both of these points are moot if you choose to follow Prof.’s advice and cut EL&IC (I don’t think your essay will suffer much, and in fact might be easier to construct and keep the argument tight). I’m drawn to your point in The Kitchen God’s Wife  about MS mirroring Pearl’s relationship with Winnie. Is the latter truly as debilitating? I feel like the mother-daughter relationship is recoverable, and we get a sense of that as Winnie is telling her story to Pearl, but MS (under current FDA-approved protocols) is still essentially a death sentence. This would definitely be the book I’d say to think more about before you start writing. I’m convinced there’s a point to be made around MS in this book, but have trouble linking it to what you’re saying here. Illness seems to offer a means of bonding with or connecting to family in this book – characters share their guarded secrets on account of others’ illness. Again, I’d be happy to bounce ideas on this topic with you. This outline looks great. – Artem

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