How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents | Study Guide

Julia Alvarez

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Course Hero. "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Feb. 2018. Web. 22 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/How-the-Garcia-Girls-Lost-Their-Accents/>.

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Course Hero. (2018, February 13). How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 22, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/How-the-Garcia-Girls-Lost-Their-Accents/

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Course Hero. "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Study Guide." February 13, 2018. Accessed July 22, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/How-the-Garcia-Girls-Lost-Their-Accents/.

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Course Hero, "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Study Guide," February 13, 2018, accessed July 22, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/How-the-Garcia-Girls-Lost-Their-Accents/.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents | Symbols

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Names and Nicknames

Names and nicknames represent the fluid nature of identity and self. Identities change when names change. As an adult Yolanda wants to be called by her full name, rejecting the nicknames Yo and Yoyo. She wants to choose an identity separate from the family. Mispronunciations of Yolanda's name, rendering it Joe in English or Jolinda on a monogrammed pencil, lead to her not knowing who she is.

The meaning of names can represent a change in identity, too. The Garcías' lower social status once they move to New York is demonstrated by the de la Torre name. In the Dominican Republic the name marked them as an important family. In New York no one knows what the name means. Their name also connects the García girls to their extended family and lineage. Without this status and connection they feel like lesser people and wonder who they really are.

Nicknames reveal secret identities shown only around loved ones. Family members have pet names for each other, representing private selves shown only to the family. Mami nicknames all the girls Cuquita, a term of affection. To her they blend together as "the four girls," and they share a nickname. Sofía's father stops calling her by her nickname Fifi when the two become estranged.

New York City

New York City represents the ideal American life always out of reach. In Part 3 the García girls imagine New York City as a magical place, picturing "a fairytale city twinkling with Christmas lights." They're entranced by images of snow, tall buildings, and giant toy stores. Even descriptions of "taxis and bad snowstorms" amaze them. Their maid, Gladys, dreams of moving to the city to become an actress. Before the girls become Americans, they see New York as an impossible fantasy.

However the reality is different: a crowded, gritty place with "second-hand stuff" and "rental houses." Taxis are a luxury only the rich can afford. Yolanda sees snow for the first time and thinks it's fallout from a nuclear bomb. Mami and Papi begin to be concerned about the urban environment's negative impact on their daughters. And Gladys, fired from her job, probably never makes it to the city. New York City, like the rest of the country, has a mythological importance but falls short of expectations. The difference between image and reality demonstrates how difficult it is for the Garcías to embrace America fully.

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