Revolutionary Action

Short Analytic Essay

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In María Helena Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus, the prehistoric La Brea Tar Pits figure prominently in several scenes in the novel. The final time the tar pits are referred to occurs right before Estrella confronts the nurse at the clinic in Corazón. In that scene, Estrella


“…remembered the tar pits. Energy money, the fossilized bones of energy matter. How bones made oil and oil made gasoline, The oil was made from their bones, and it was their bones that kept the nurse’s car from not halting on some highway, kept her on the way to Daisyfield to pick up her boys at six. It was their bones that kept the air conditioning in the cars humming, that kept them moving on the long dotted line on the map. Their bones. Why couldn’t the nurse see that? Estrella had figured it out: the nurse owed them as much as they owed her” (Under the Feet of Jesus, 148).


Perform a close reading of the above lines. Critically analyze what kind of experience is here evoked for Estrella; specifically, think about what kind of social history is evoked for her by “the bones”? Why does she remember the tar pits at this pivotal moment in the novel, right before her revolutionary action? What do the Tar Pits tell her about history—and what/whose history, specifically?


Also, in your analysis of this scene, please connect one of the earlier scenes in which the Tar Pits emerge; they occur when Alejo is injured by the pesticides (UFJ, 78); when Alejo first tells Estrella about the Tar Pits (UFJ, 86-88); or when Estrella thinks of them pushing the truck (UFJ, 129).


Please use DIRECT QUOTES from the text to support your claims

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