Study Guide

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Family

By Julia Alvarez

Family

Even after they'd been married and had their own families and often couldn't make it for other occasions, the four daughters always came home for their father's birthday. [...] Surely their husbands could spare them for one overnight? (1.2.1)

The García family is really tight. Even after the girls grow up and have families of their own, their childhood family—Papi, Mami, and the four girls—is still kind of like an exclusive club that no one else can join.

Why not checks? the daughters would wonder later, gossiping together in the bedroom, counting their money to make sure the father wasn't playing favorites. (1.2.5)

Ah, sibling rivalry. You never grow out of it.

After all her hard work, she was not to be included in the daughter count. Damn him! She'd take her turn and make him know it was her! (1.2.61)

So Sigmund Freud, the founder of a branch of psychology called psychoanalysis, had this idea that we call the "Electra Complex." It's the theory that all little girls are in sexual competition with their mother for their father's attention. Weird, right? Whether you buy it or not, this idea has been enormously influential. And it seems to explain what's going on here between Fifi and her dad.

His face had darkened with shame at having his pleasure aroused in public by one of his daughters. [...]
"That's enough of that," he commanded in a low, furious voice. (1.2.65-66)

So this suggestion of incest has been present throughout this entire chapter. There's been lots of subtle father-daughter flirting, and Papi even seems jealous of his daughters' husbands. But when Fifi gives Papi a "wet, open-mouthed kiss in his ear," she goes too far.

The mother dressed them all alike in diminishing-sized, different color versions of what she wore, so that the husband sometimes joked, calling them the five girls. (1.3.2)

Aw, Papi calls his wife and daughters his "five girls." Cute, right? Or maybe not so cute if we consider the incestuous vibe of the previous chapter.

The eldest, a child psychologist, admonished the mother in an autobiographical paper, "I Was There Too," by saying that the color system had weakened the four girls' identity differentiation abilities and made them forever unclear about personality boundaries. The eldest also intimated that the mother was a mild anal retentive personality. (1.3.5)

So this is the eldest daughter Carla's take on their parents' child-rearing techniques. Kinda harsh, don't you think? But maybe it explains why the family is still so close after all these years.

We look at each other, and then, drop our gaze to hide our confusion. We are free at last, but here, just at the moment the gate swings open, and we can fly the coop, Tía Carmen's love revives our old homesickness. (2.1.149)

The girls are really ambivalent about their family—their family drives them absolutely crazy, but at the same time they love their family a lot.

But Laura's inventing days were over just as Yoyo's were starting up with her school-wide success. [...] It was as if, after that, her mother had passed on to Yoyo her pencil and pad and said, "Okay, Cuquita, here's the buck. You give it a shot." (2.2.68)

We like this quote because it shows us how Yoyo feels like she has a special connection with her mom. The desire to create, a gift for telling stories—are these family traits?

The seemingly endless list of familiar names would coax her back to sleep with a feeling of safety, of a world still peopled by those who loved her. (2.3.81)

Family becomes an important security blanket for Carla when she first moves to the United States. The experience of being a foreigner makes her feel really lost and vulnerable, so she relies on her family to make her feel safe and loved.

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