This final exam is worth 25 points. It concerns the Ernesto Quiñonez novel, Bodega Dreams. Please consult the book for references before you attempt to answer this assignment. Obviously, you will be using your own creativity and ability to form unique interpretations on this exam, but it still would be advisable to review the MLA method of essay writing, as well as, using in- text citations and the work cited page.
The following information was originally presented in my lectures. Bodega Dreams is by Ernesto Quiñonez. Willie Bodega is the protagonist and the setting for this book is Spanish Harlem, also known as East Harlem. As the plot evolves, we begin to see the reach of migration and immigration and the web of licit and illicit activities accompanying these phenomena, as newcomers blend in with older residents. It is interesting that this main character shares bodega as a name, aligning it with the more traditional meaning in Spanish associated with a grocery store, where products from all over the world may be found. Bodega traces its roots to the Latin word for storehouse. Just as a bodega or grocery store serves the community in more ways than just providing food, the novel’s protagonist, also, offers many diverse services to the neighborhood. This is reflected in the following quote from The New York Times newspaper. “Bodega Dreams is a stark evocation of life in the projects of El Barrio.”
El Barrio, meaning neighborhood, is situated in upper Manhattan, encompassing the area north of East 96th St. on the upper eastside to approximately the 140s off Fifth Avenue going toward the East and Harlem Rivers. This area over many decades has suffered from many social issues. Public housing is plentiful denoting economic struggles and impoverishment. Hopes and dreams seem difficult to materialize due to overhanging social constructs. Yet, one of the most beautiful museums resides there projecting cultural pride from both well-known and community-based artists, who continually try, in a variety of aesthetic manifestations, to emphasize a socially conscious voice.
Now it is time to refresh our minds by going back and rereading the course description. It should offer us ideas, words and phrases that may prove useful in our essay.
This course will provide a lens into the realms of globalization in Latin America and how this area enters into and intertwines with stories of diverse Latin American/Caribbean realities. Since 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, positive and negative changes have swept over the entire world and Latin American and Caribbean countries have not been exempt from these all-encompassing processes.
Although globalization has been defined in many different ways, the dynamics connected to it usually include some form of world integration, interdependency and interconnectivity. These words are frequently interpreted in an overwhelmingly economic sense, but world literature has also been affected by these global transformations in other ways. In the case of Latin American storytelling, texts involving politics, society, environment, commerce, science, and culture have expanded their regional focus to multiple geographical locations where people’s lives, families and communities have impacted and /or been impacted by this ever-changing global system. Problematic aspects as well as untold opportunities are now more in evidence in plots, characterizations, and narrative structures, foregrounding situations involving migration, immigration, neighborhood values, borders and walls, gender, the drug trade, and ecological matters, among others.
Therefore, this class will attempt to critically question globalization’s strategies, ideological structures and systems of power. By analyzing the wider arenas of the geopolitical, social and cultural, fictional worlds will attempt to illustrate this region’s hopes, struggles, dreams and drama, manifesting the existence of a new global south with fresh perspectives concerning the realities of the late 20th/ early 21st century.
Now I would like to give you a few tips about the writing process itself. This is an analytical essay, so give it a title. Final Exam is not a title. The title corresponds to the main idea of your work. Whatever the title is, that is what you should be writing about. Since this is an analysis, do not overly summarize or you will lose points for this error. I expect that you will use numerous in text citations for this essay to support your thoughts from both the book and the magazine. Look on the MLA site for the correct format.
Please reflect on your own ideas after having read the Quiñonez novel as well as the areas we have discussed during the semester. Please reread the lectures concerning these topics. Reread previous discussion forums. Remember that in an essay, you will be developing your own thesis statement and defending it with numerous quotes from the original text and other sources of your own choosing. Since an essay contains an introduction, body, and conclusion, each having a specific purpose to fulfill, make sure your essay’s structure demonstrates a good grammatical command, cohesive organization and a coherent development plan referring back to your originally stated thesis. Go back to https://owl.english.purdue.edu if you have problems in writing your assignment.
Once again, please pay attention to your thesis statement. Remember that it is positioned at the end of the first paragraph and is the roadmap for the rest of your essay. Since your thesis statement cannot be a summary, do not summarize the book. Analyze it. Pick out the textual places you want to emphasize according to your essay’s main idea.
Before giving the specifics of the final exam, I will give general foundational ideas and thoughts about storytelling and the novel through the lens of globalization.
First, please read the following quote from Petrus Borel, 19th century French writer. It is a philosophical platform to set the stage.
“To get rich, one must have but a single idea, one fixed, hard, immutable thought: the desire to make a heap of gold. And in order to increase this heap of gold, one must be inflexible…and mistreat the small and weak. And when this mountain of gold has been amassed, one can climb up on it, and from up on the summit, one can contemplate the valley of the poor wretches that one has created.”
Although Borel was referring to European conquest, some characteristics of this quote seemingly transcend time and the approximate 500+ years since European arrival at the Americas’ shores. Obviously within the globalization framework, this connects to capitalism and wealth accumulation and presents coloniality’s relationship to modernity. We see the past embedded in the present and wealth connected to poverty. They all appear to be connected to some form of world integration, interdependency and interconnectivity.
Next, let’s shift to our novel’s setting, which is Harlem. Remember that Harlem has been presented with its own personality and ecology. It is situated in Manhattan, an island with some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Yet, this sector is also one of the most congested and impoverished in New York City. To house increasing numbers of people, more buildings had to be created. Many were considered tenements with slum landlords present only for rent collection. As the novel states, “East Harlem had no business being in this rich city, but there it was, filled with broken promises of a better life, so when many Puerto Ricans and other Latinos gathered their bags and carried their dreams on their backs, [they arrived] here in America” (161).
The character of Bodega is the bridge between place and people. He is a leader who acquires and renovates many of these run-down dwellings. The book characterizes these places as “mammoth filing cabinets of humans, bees in a honeycomb, crowded and angry…the taller the building, the more people on top of one another and the higher the crime rate (70). Although living in the barrio was challenging, Bodega had dreams for himself and his community. He doesn’t want anything from his neighbors but loyalty and a certain willingness to allow illicit drug activities to provide income.
He tried to gain legitimacy through his company, the Harry Goldstein Real Estate Agency. Nazario, his partner in all this, is a lawyer. But rather than law and regulations, he believes it is necessary to do evil to achieve good. He states, “A single lawyer can steal more money than a hundred men with guns…Crime is access” (103). These beliefs make it easier for him to engineer Willie’s end.
Chino is the book’s narrator, He thought Bodega was noble. But at the end, Bodega is killed and “his dreams were dead” (197).Then Chino dreams of Bodega, now deceased, who speaks about “two cultures merging and clashing…our people are evolving into something completely new”.(212) He thinks that with these words, the future will be better.
Next, is the case of Latin American storytelling. Whether tales are global or local (glocal), they involve transformations in politics, society, environment, commerce, science, and culture. These aspects are capable of expanding their regional focus to multiple geographical locations while they encompass people’s lives, families and communities through the rules of the ever-changing global system. Problematic aspects as well as untold opportunities are in evidence in plots, characterizations, and narrative structures, foregrounding situations involving migration, immigration, marginalization, exclusion, containment, neighborhood values, borders and walls, gender, the drug trade (cultivation, manufacture and distribution of profitable merchandise), real estate matters (currency, capital, and loyalty), and power (el barrio, street politics, favors, and friendships) among others. So, reflecting upon all these factors, let’s attempt to explore how they may appear, directly or obliquely, in Quiñonez’s novel.
Finally, here is the assignment. In an eight (8) page essay, analyze Bodega Dreams as a novel shedding light and offering insights on different aspects of globalization in literature. This may take different directions. You may include how different people’s lives, families and communities were represented in this novel as parts of a connected global system; or, how local/global problems and opportunities were shown in plots, characterizations, and narrative structures; or even how globalization’s strategies, ideological structures and systems of power were manifested in el barrio. Ultimately, it is your choice about how you wish to organize the content of this essay.
I have offered these thoughts and navigational points which you may choose to consider as part of your analysis if you wish. Use them if you want or replace them with others of your own choosing. In any case, the focus of this final is to show how literature offers a vision of the globalized world. So, examine the novel closely to see how some aspects of globalization have been reflected in Quinonez’s work.
Whether you center your thoughts on the text/main characters or offer a commentary on history, socio-economics and/or certain people’s places within the globalized world, the challenge of this final exam is to analyze. Be creative but be focused. Make sure your grammar and essay organization are precise. To help with what a literary analysis essay is really about, I have posted some handout type information in course materials. Remember this assignment is the final exam. There will be no time for a revision on this work.