Study Guide

Marisol Guzman in Hard Love

By Ellen Wittlinger

Marisol Guzman

Self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Cambridge, Massachusetts, rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love" (1.52), Marisol is sure of herself. From the get-go, Marisol knows who she is. Or at least, she claims to… But can she really be summed up with this list of adjectives?

Who Are You?

At one point, Marisol mocks the idea that everyone at her school is "gifted and talented." She doesn't get how that can be when so many students are labeled that way—but in her skepticism, she undermines her own status as a gifted student. She also claims that the reason she's Cuban and Puerto Rican is just because of her parents—these labels aren't so much hers, as things she's been born into. Looked at from this angle, Marisol's sense of self doesn't seem to be quite as stable as she tries to make it out to be. She even tells John:

"I need to figure out what it all means by myself. I need to have a world that is not open to my mother. I need to cross barriers by myself, not holding her hand." (4.11)

We totally understand Marisol's desire to learn about herself and her desires without her mom breathing down her neck. What teen hasn't felt that way at some point? At the same time, though, for someone who purports to be so clear about who she is, this need to get away suggests that maybe Marisol's been doing a bit of hiding behind the labels society tosses her way instead of truly digging deep into her identity. And with this in mind, it seems totally possible that this need to get away is just a new and improved way of trying to escape herself.

Escape Velocity 

Speaking of escape, let's take a look at the name of her zine. She explains that the title—Escape Velocity—is: "the speed at which a body must travel to escape the gravitational pull of another body" (1.75). Cool name, right? We like the idea that someone can remove themselves from others and just be their own person. Yet Marisol already seems just about as sure of herself as someone can possibly be—she's all about how she knows who she is and being unafraid to say it.

Here's the thing about knowing who you are, though: You can always know yourself more, and one way to do that is to throw yourself into unfamiliar settings and scenarios. Which is exactly what Marisol heads off to do at the end. And the thing about this, is that much as it hurts John—who has finally let himself open up to someone—it also shows him how to keep taking risks. Whether she's escaping or not is beside the point: Marisol doesn't stagnate, she stays on the move. That's the whole velocity part of the force that she is.