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Symbolisms Used in Gilb’s Uncle Rock

Uncle Rock, a short story written by Dagoberto Gilb for the May 10, 2010 edition of The New Yorker, tells of the story of Erick, who is a young boy of Mexican descent living in America with his mother. While superficially the said story tells of the struggles experienced by Erick in adjusting from his impoverished home town to a new environment, which is America, a more careful inspection would reveal several symbolisms that were employed by the author in his attempt to convey his desired message.

More importantly, the narration presented from the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old boy makes the story exhibit a certain level of innocence, when in actuality the people surrounding him teems with sexual undertones bordering on manipulation, immorality, and greed. It is evident that Gilb employed several symbolisms to accentuate the themes that he aspires to convey. This is evident in the use of popular American food generally associated with childhood, such as ice cream, hotdogs, sundaes and chocolate shakes.

As such, just when his mother has left their house to go out with a man, “He raced to the grocery store and bought half a gallon of chocolate ice cream…he turned on the TV…and ate his dinner with a soup spoon” (Gilb, 2010, p. 1). These symbolisms effectively presented the story from Erick’s viewpoint, wherein the attention is focused on his fleeting freedom despite the reader being aware of his mother’s seeming liberated attitude on sex. Likewise, a clear distinction between their deprived background in Mexico and their more comfortable life in America is expressed by detailing the physical environs of the respective locations.

Thus, for Mexico, visual descriptions such as “They didn’t have toilets. They didn’t have electricity. Sometimes they didn’t have enough food” (Gilb, 2010, p. 1) were used, while for America, descriptions such as “two horses and a stable, a swimming pool, and two convertible sports cars” (Gilb, 2010, p. 1) were employed. More than any other method, this visualization technique that was employed by the author has effectively resulted in the reader’s having full understanding of the characters’ personalities; a basis of Erick’s social reservation and his mother’s preference for well-to-do men.

Another image that the author used in the story is the Dodger Stadium. This, especially when taking into consideration all the different aspects that are associated with the baseball game such as the hotdog vendors, the rowdy crowd, the bleachers filled with thousands of enthusiastic spectators, and the magnificence of the baseball field itself, portrays in a nutshell the American way of life. It serves as a point of reference for Erick concerning his assimilation with the American culture and society.

This claim would be emphasized by the baseball that he caught after one of the superstars had hit a home run, especially with the detailed description of its effect in his emotion, as evidenced in the lines “He didn’t watch the game then—he couldn’t…He stared at his National League ball, reimagining what had happened” (Gilb, 2010, p. 1). With the employment of the ball as a symbolism, the story effectively tells of Erick’s deeper understanding on life; that he understood the significance of catching a home run ball and that he is fully aware of his mother’s seeming laxity on sexual decency.

Perhaps in no other part of the story has it been clearer that Erick is more mature than what is initially portrayed of him, than the instance wherein he discarded a note from the baseball player, asking his mother for a drink and to spend the night at his hotel room. Here, the note itself serves as a definite evidence of Erick’s knowledge regarding his mother’s relationships with several men, and the carnal consequences that come with these relationships.

The note also serves as a turning point of how the reader perceives Erick to be, which is from a childish and innocent boy to someone who is fully aware of other people’s intentions, particularly of men’s towards his mother. Reference Gilb, D. (2010, May 10). Uncle Rock. The New Yorker. com. Retrieved August 3, 2010, from <http://www. newyorker. com/fiction/features/2010/05/10/100510fi_fiction_gilb? currentPage=all>

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