Pandora’s Box in Under the Feet of Jesus
Pandoa’s Box was said to contain all the evils in the world, upon opening spreading sins around the Earth. In the excerpt from Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus, the toolbox is similar to Pandora ’s Box as it contains Estrella’s future knowledge. Although the toolbox is a reoccurring theme throughout the passage, it is not the only thing that develops Estrella’s character. While developing the complexity of the piece that Estrella once hated the thing that brought her knowledge, Viramontes also creates the protagonist through selection of detail and tone, producing at least three main traits of Estrella: she was questioning and unintelligent until opening the toolbox, her mother tried but she did not have good hygiene, and her real educator was Perfecto Flores with the toolbox.
An author can use selection of detail to impose a negative or positive image of a character or setting upon the reader by withholding or adding information. In this piece, Viramontes utilizes selection of detail to create a visual image of the character both in her mental and physical aspect. First of all, Viramontes uses selection of detail to put forth the details that make Estrella seem dirty first and clueless first. Starting with line four the author tells the reader she is not very bright, stating “She had opened the tool chest and all that jumbled steel inside the box, the iron bars and things with handles, the funny-shaped objects, seemed as confusing and foreign as the alphabet she could not decipher.” (4-8) This states that, first off, Estrella does not yet know what the tools are and therefore what they do, also stating that she cannot read. Then, the passage shifts to school, where Estrella would “point to the diagonal lines written in chalk on the blackboard with a dirty fingernail.” (15-17) Using selection of detail, the author mixes Estrella’s lack of knowledge with a hit about her physical appearance, then leading on to a discussion of her braids (36) and lack of hygiene though her mom tried. (36-37) Selection of detail also brings forth some complexity in the piece. The tool box was hated by Estrella and Viramontes selected to portray this hatred as being “silent with rage” (10) yet immediately follow it with references to tools in comparison to letters, revealing that she hates the toolbox, yet it gives her knowledge.
Also used was tone to show how the classroom teacher was not the real educator and develop Estrella’s character as who she learns from. When discussing Estrella’s teachers, the narrator uses a somewhat upset tone that they “were more concerned about the dirt under her fingernails” (19-20) than the knowledge she was trying to acquire. This tone can be seen as the narrator discusses how they “inspected her head for lice” (21) not because they were concerned about her health, but how her health would affect them and the other children. However, when talking about Perfecto, the narrator adapts a more adoring tone, one that might be used when speaking about a father. The narrator shows that he cares for her when saying “your manitas aren’t strong yet” (58), suggesting that he has taken time to know her and what she has difficulty with and that he cares for her. Because he adapts this calm and caring tone, Estrella finds it essential to learn how to read rather than after her careless teachers scrub her head because she does not like them. Also, this shift in tone develops the complexity of the tool chest being hated and loved by Estrella. The piece is started off with a hateful tone towards it because it “kept [things] from her” (12) but in the 5th and 6th paragraphs the narrator seems to adore it because of the knowledge it has.
In this passage both tone and selection of detail are literary elements used by Viramontes to develop the character of Estrella and the complexity of the tool chest as a hated and loved object.
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