Mexican American Family In Gary Soto's Looking For Work

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In “Looking for Work,” author Gary Soto recalls his failed childhood attempt to assimilate his working-class Mexican American family to the idealized white families shown on television sitcoms like the Cleavers of Leave it to Beaver and the Andersons of Father Knows Best. His early failure reminds us that American families are complicated. Nevertheless, his essay suggests that working-class families of color like the Sotos can be just as functional as Beaver Cleaver’s family.
Soto contrasts the families televised with his own to suggest how Mexican American boys are taught to undervalue their own families and backgrounds. Soto begins his narrative with a description of his 9 year old self enjoying his favorite TV show: “For weeks I had drunk
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The two white people mentioned in the story neglect him. He is looking for money when his friend Little John wants to help out: “I reminded him [Little John] that the last time he had gone door-to-door asking for work his mother had whipped him”(pg.21). Little John’s mother is a New Jersey Italian and she beats her son for wanting to go look for work with young Soto. The beating of her son signifies how labor is looked down on by white people. Little John’s mother, although being kind to young Soto, beats her son for doing what Soto does. It is appropriate for Soto to look for a job because he is Mexican-American, but for her white Italian son it is not appropriate. The other white person encountered in the essay is David King. He is an Armenian and French boy. Soto goes to David’s house: “When I asked if I could come along he said no. David said no” (pg.23). David denies young Soto when he asked if he can join him in playing. The two white people mentioned in the essay give Soto negative experiences. One beats her son for being like Soto and the other does not let him play with him. Soto watches TV and the Beaver’s and Anderson’s from the TV shows become his idols and role models. When he sees white people in his neighborhood, they neglect him. This makes young Soto want to change his family even more. He wants to change the way they are so he and his …show more content…
Soto explains how he thought that he “improved the way we look we might get along better in life” (p.23). His sister goes on to explain how “‘they’ll [meaning white people] never like us’” (p.23). Soto’s sister acknowledges how white people will never like people like Soto. His sister becomes characterized as his foil because she is the opposite of him. By being his foil, Soto’s sister values their family and background, which makes her anchor Soto back to his culture. Similarly, Soto characterizes his mother as the person who is in charge in the house. He is sitting at the dinner table when he asks “‘Mom do you think we could get dressed up for dinner one of these days? David King does” (pg. 22). Soto asks his mom for permission and he follows her commands. The title, Father Knows Best, suggests how in an ideal white household, the father is the person in charge. Soto’s mother being in charge is unorthodox, but it proves his family is still functional because there is no father-figure in the house, yet Soto still has a home and a family. The two strongest characters in the story being women and the absence of a father-figure in his life, suggest the idea that women know best is just as the adage of Father Knows

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