When it comes to American literature, there are a few stories that have stood the test of time and continue to be relevant even today. One such story is “American History” by Judith Ortiz Cofer.
This short story explores themes of identity, racism, and cultural assimilation. Let’s take a closer look at each of these themes.
Identity: The protagonist in “American History” is Elena, a young Puerto Rican girl who has recently moved to the United States. Throughout the story, she struggles with her own identity and where she fits into American society.
She feels torn between her Puerto Rican heritage and the desire to assimilate into American culture. This struggle is evident when Elena changes her name from “Elenita” to “Elena” in an effort to fit in with her new classmates.
Racism: Racism is another central theme in “American History.” Elena faces discrimination from both her classmates and her teacher because of her ethnicity.
Her teacher assumes that because Elena is Puerto Rican, she can’t speak English fluently or understand American history. This assumption leads to a humiliating moment for Elena when she can’t answer a question about George Washington.
- Elena’s classmates also make fun of her accent and pronounce her name incorrectly.
- The story highlights how racism can affect even young children.
Cultural Assimilation: Finally, “American History” explores the theme of cultural assimilation. Elena wants to fit into American culture but struggles with holding onto her own cultural identity at the same time. This struggle is evident when she wears a rebozo (a traditional Puerto Rican shawl) to school but takes it off once she sees that no one else is wearing one.
Through its exploration of identity, racism, and cultural assimilation, “American History” provides a powerful commentary on the immigrant experience. It shows how difficult it can be for people to fit into a new culture while holding onto their own cultural identity.
The story also highlights the damaging effects of racism and discrimination, even towards young children. Overall, “American History” is a thought-provoking and important piece of American literature that continues to resonate with readers today.