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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

12. Migrant

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Rudolfo A. Anaya
- Carlos Bulosan
- Robinson Jeffers
- Alberto Ríos
- Tomas Rivera
- Muriel Rukeyser
- Upton Sinclair
- John Steinbeck
- Henry David Thoreau
- Helena Maria Viramontes
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Suggested Author Pairings

Carlos Bulosan and Helena Maria Viramontes
Both Bulosan and Viramontes focus on the importance of family and the connections among family members. How do these authors demonstrate the effects of class restrictions and racism on the family? How does each of them demonstrate the value of family in hard times? Do they have different approaches to their treatment of family issues? Which author seems more celebratory of family connections and relationships? Why might this be?

Henry David Thoreau and John Steinbeck
Both Thoreau and Steinbeck explore the social and moral disadvantages of increased mechanization and technology. Their harsh criticisms of "progress" and technology may seem counterintuitive to many Americans. After all, most of our institutions, and certainly the popular press, seem to praise these advances. Do these writers offer effective arguments against technology? How do their treatments of this subject overlap? How do they differ?

Helena Maria Viramontes and Tomas Rivera
Viramontes's Under the Feet of Jesus details the physical labor performed by migrant workers, while Rivera's . . . y no se lo tragó la tierra/ . . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him more subtly alludes to such labor. Both works are coming-of-age stories as well as testimonios, narratives that bear witness to the migrant worker's plight. What effects do these themes have on the reader? How do Viramontes's and Rivera's representations of physical labor illuminate these themes?

Henry David Thoreau and Carlos Bulosan
In their writings, both Thoreau and Bulosan combine events from their own lives with events that happened to others. Discuss autobiography as a genre, and consider whether it is possible for any author to write an autobiography that is entirely without embellishment of some kind. Such a discussion could start with Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, which begins with a letter of advice about growing up to a son who was in fact already grown when the Autobiography was written. Thoreau takes an experience that occurs over two years and condenses it to one in Walden; in addition, he downplays the extent to which his mother and sister made his "simple life" possible. Likewise, many of the events that Bulosan writes about in the first person in America Is in the Heart never really happened to him.

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