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COLUMBIASTATE ENGL 1010 - "The Jacket" by Gary Soto

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Throughout my reading of "The Jacket" by Gary Soto, I saw myself as a child in the maincharacter. The main character and I were both extraordinarily self-conscious children, always assuming that people must be judging and laughing at our every move. We both were poverty-stricken and too young to comprehend what that meant entirely. Though there are several depictable similarities between myself as a child and the main character, I found one distinct difference. We were both children who felt the need to blame our shortcomings on something, but we chose incredibly different entities to blame. Self-consciousness is a trait that the main character and my younger self unfortunately share. The narrator wrote about his teachers, ". . .they looked my way and talked about how foolish I looked in my new jacket. I saw their heads bob with laughter." The teachers could have been talking about something completely different, but because of the cloak of embarrassment and shame that he wore, he assumed that his teachers must have talked about him. Similarly, I was the student who always thought that my peers and teachers were mocking me for some reason. I have distinct memories of crying in the bathroom stall because I had answered a seemingly simple question incorrectly out loud, making my face flush bright red and a few students giggle. The main character and I were both children who lived in poverty, and neither understood what that truly meant. The jacket that was given to him by his mother was several sizes too large,which shows us that she did not have the funds to buy him a new jacket for each season. The narrator confuses his mother as cheap instead of poor because he did not understand the difference between them. At the end of the story, the narrator writes, ". . .my brother and sister with their heads bowed made ugly faces at their powdered milk. I gagged too, but eagerly ate bigrips of buttered tortilla that held scooped-up beans." All of this proves the financial hardship thathis family was under and was not old enough to understand. When I was growing up, hand me down clothes were what I got unless it was a special occasion. Beans and hotdogs were a staple meal in my house because of how inexpensive it was. I witnessed my mother quietly crying in the kitchen, facing the bare cabinets after I had selfishly eaten a week's worth of snacks in two days, not understanding the financial implication that act had on the family. The main character and I both found things to blame for the negative things that happenedto us, each holding ourselves at two quite contrasting levels of accountability. The main characterof "The Jacket" needed a scapegoat to carry the weight of his misfortunes. "I blame the jacket forthose bad years," the narrator wrote. The main character talked about nearly failing quizzes, the school bully pushing him around on the playground, and losing girls' attention to the boys with better jackets. In the mind of the leading character, all of this was the fault of the jacket. In contrast, I chose to carry the weight of my shortcomings on my own, which created a lot of self-hatred. For every time I was bullied, every potential friendship I blew by talking too much about uninteresting topics, and for every piece of schoolwork that came back as anything below an A, Iblamed myself. Blaming myself for all those years was incredibly unhealthy. While I think it is important to hold yourself accountable, it is also essential to understand that not everything is your fault. The main character and I could have taken a few lessons from one another. I was vividly reminded of my childhood while reading about the story's main character because of the similarities between our situations and personalities. The main character was poor,embarrassed, and blamed his problems primarily on his ugly jacket. I, too, was poor and ashamed but blamed myself for every problem that I faced. The patterns of poverty and self-conscious behavior are cohesive between the main character and my younger self. However, the levels at which we took responsibility for the mishaps in our lives differed


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