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Power Structure, Family Dynamics, and Cultural Assimilation - Essay Example

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Culture is unique to each and every society. It can be defined by such things as one's attitudes, customs, and language and by how they intersect with one's surrounding environment. In Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, the four Garcia sisters talk about the Dominican-American family's struggle with assimilation and the resulting clash between Hispanic and American cultures…
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Power Structure, Family Dynamics, and Cultural Assimilation
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Download file to see previous pages While this dynamic structure could hamper them as a family unit, it is tempered instead by a family support network. A closer examination of the text will reveal how these elements hinge upon each other.
An important factor in the family dynamic of the Garca is the power structure, which is usually manipulated through distance or an intermediary source. This initially arises from their cultural background in the Dominican Republic and from the fact that their family is connected to the Torre bloodline. The Garcas are an upper-class family on 'the Island'; they are accustomed to having servants and their remaining family there still do. The servants frequently serve as semi-authority figures to the children, as illustrated on the first page by the description "When their squabbles reach a certain mother-annoying level, they are called away by their nursemaids" (p. 3). This power through distance is illustrated in the government as well, as in the case of the secret police coming to interrogate Carlos (Papi) Garca. Carlos's response is the classic response to the power-distance, for, being the weaker side of the power balance, he escapes authority by being "absent" (i.e. hiding). This passive aggressive defense can be used as an attack, as when the three older sisters show their disapproval of Sofa's boyfriend by returning home from a group outing before the couple could get to the rendezvous. This scene exhibits a delicate balance of both sides of the power-distance equation: the parents maintained control of their children distantly by having them as a group, while the sisters returning without the youngest made her absence all the more obvious and assured swift punishment. The children here are forced to act as intermediary authorities for each other, yet the three oldest sisters decide that, for their sister's best interest, "we're staging a coup we are blowing the lovers' cover." (p. 127). This power structure is again exhibited in Sofa's marriage to Otto, for she distances herself physically and emotionally from her father's authority. He, in turn, responds by becoming emotionally absent from her life. The birth of Sofa's children, especially the son named after Carlos, serve as the intermediary catalyst for their relationship to begin healing. Lastly, chronologically speaking, Yolanda uses these lessons of distance to try and reassume control of her life by returning to the Dominican Republic. She will follow the examples of her family and her heritage to escape the cyclical patterns of her American life and return to her roots.
The Garca family structure provides a vital element of support for its members, yet this same structure reveals the evolution of gender roles. This evolution is rooted in the traditional gender roles in the Dominican Republic, as revealed through Manuel's efforts to limit what Sofa reads. This assumption of male dominance and female submissive domesticity are reinforced by Ta Flor's argument that she herself is a queen, for " My husband has to go to work everyday. I can sleep until noon I'm going to protest for my rights" (p.121) It is this tradition that demands that Papi provide the principal financial support and therefore be the nominal head of the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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