by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza Rising Theme of Justice and Judgment
Esperanza Rising is fictionalized, sure, but the events behind the story are incredibly real. And when it comes to farm laborers during the Great Depression, questions of fairness and justice are everywhere.
In our story, Marta and some of the other workers protest that the farmers are taking advantage of them. They go on strike, refusing to work until the farmers pay better wages and provide better living conditions. Marta believes that Mexicans will never be able to get ahead because of racial prejudice, and she thinks that striking is the only way to achieve justice. At first Esperanza disagrees, but eventually she starts to have some sympathy for Marta's point of view.
What do you think? It's not easy to form your own political opinions—especially when real people are involved—but Esperanza Rising encourages us to do just that.
Questions About Justice and Judgment
- Are the farmers smart businessmen to hire workers for the lowest wages possible? Or are they taking advantage of desperate people?
- Why does Miguel lose his job as a railroad mechanic? Is this unjust, or just bad luck?
- What is a "strike"? Why do Marta and some of the other workers go on strike? What do they hope to accomplish by refusing to work?
- Why are Esperanza and her family reluctant to join the strikers? What are they afraid will happen if they refuse to work?
Chew on This
Esperanza and her family are silly not to join the strike right away. Their employers are treating them unjustly by paying such low wages and providing terrible housing. The only way the workers can hope to be treated fairly is to get everyone to refuse to work until the farmers agree to pay higher wages.
Esperanza and her family are wise not to join the strike. If they refuse to work, they will lose their jobs to unemployed workers from Oklahoma, who are willing to work for pennies a day. If they just keep working hard and don't cause trouble, Esperanza and her family will eventually prosper.