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Into the Beautiful North’: Themes and Literary Strategies


• Borders

• Heroes

• Search for love and belonging

• Immigration, to America and to Mexico

• Loss

• Difficulty of living in two worlds

• Middle America contrasted with small town Mexico

• Choices young people in Mexico have to make

• How movies inspire our actions

• Role of women and changing stereotypes

Literary Strategies Used to Convey Themes:

1. Formal Aspects of the Book

• Third-person omniscient narrator

• Use of Spanish, Spanglish, and English

2. Narrator

Specific quotes that highlight the narrator and its contribution to the story:

• “Nayeli couldn’t tell if she was angry or depressed. Vampi was so scared she could not stop crying. Yolo was so mad, she wanted to slap Nayeli’s face and go back home. Tacho was thinking: The United States is a little disappointing so far.” Pg 154

Topics for discussion

• How is the point of view of the book changed by having a third-person omniscient narrator as opposed to a first person narrator?

3. Structure of chapters

Topics for discussion:

• Why are the chapters arranged in two sections, Sur and Norte?

• What views of the characters are changed between the two sections?

• Why did the author choose to write an epilogue, instead of extending the story a few more chapters? How does this help or hinder readers?

4. Introduction of secondary characters

Specific quotations:

• “The beggars were having a bad day. Doña Araceli was dressed the way the mestizos expected her to dress – in indigenous clothing… She and her husband, Porfino, had come north… to earn money in Tijuana.” Pg 108

• “There he stood, surveying his realm, the warrior Atómiko. King of the Hill. Baddest of the trash pickers. The master of the dompe, known by all, feared by many.” Pg 121

• “Agent Arnold Davis had seen it all. After twenty-seven years in government service, he was close enough to retirement that he was bulletproof as far as bureaucracy went.” Pg 157

• “Ma Johnston was one of those good, invisible, hard-luck women who lived along the tougher low-rent sections of Clairemont Drive.” Pg 191

• “He had come from Leon, Guanajuato. He was a guitarist for a darkwave metal band in Mexico known as Cuerno de Hielo.” Pg 216

Topics for discussion:

• Why does the author choose to introduce secondary characters, such as Ma Johnston, La Bruja, and Agent Arnold Davis, in the way he does?

• How does this add to the knowledge of the reader?

5. Language

Specific quotations:

• “Nel, socio, la frontera ‘sta gacha, guey, hasta las playas, guey, orale, pos la onda, es que la wall esta avienta al agua, guey!”

Topics for discussion:

• Language and dialect play an integral role in the novel’s style. Spanish words and phonetic spellings are laced throughout, and Spanglish and slang are used on both sides of the border. What does Urrea achieve by mixing language in this way?

• What does it say about the ability of language to bridge --- or not to bridge --- cultural gaps?

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