Study Guide

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Part 1, Chapter 4

By Julia Alvarez

Part 1, Chapter 4

Joe (Yolanda)

  • Yoyo has too many nicknames. It makes her feel like she has multiple personalities.
  • She's thinking this while standing at a window, watching a man she calls Doc walk across the lawn. She invents a playful story about him that is more about rhyming and language than it is about plot.
  • Yolanda stops making up a story about Doc, and starts telling Doc her own story. It's flashback time.
  • This is the story of Yolanda's love life. At the beginning of time (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration), she and John were in love. They made love like animals in Paradise.
  • But then John had to go ruin it by saying he loves her, and making her say she loves him. This freaks Yolanda out—there's something dangerous about those three little words.
  • Then John insists they get married. Yolanda has a really bad feeling about this. There's a little voice inside her head waving its arms and screaming, "I object!" But does she listen? Nope.
  • Scene Two. The lovers lie in the grass by a pond and play word games. Yolanda is pretty quick with the rhymes, but John can't really keep up. Especially when Yolanda uses Spanish words.
  • Scene Three. John and Yolanda are in the middle of a huge fight. John says Yolanda needs to go see a "shrink." She's crazy, he thinks, and he's perfectly normal.
  • Scene Four. Yolanda begins to realize she and John just aren't on the same wavelength. John believes in Objectivity with a capital 'O'. Yolanda believes in words and emotions and different perspectives.
  • They have another huge fight when Yolanda finds a list of "Pros and Cons of marrying Yolanda." On the "cons" side, John wrote "Crazy?"
  • Yolanda has been seeing a "shrink" called Dr. Payne. She calls him "Doc," because "Payne" sounds too scary. (Yep, he's the tennis player from the beginning of the chapter.)
  • John tries to convince Yolanda to get over her anger by bringing her in for a kiss. But she just feels like he's forcing her to swallow her words. She screams, "No!" and pushes him away.
  • Scene Five. Yolanda and John are lying in bed. John is trying to convince Yolanda to make love, but she doesn't want to. He keeps trying, until finally Yolanda leaps out of bed, cursing.
  • Yolanda's heart folds up and flies away. It just "lifted up to the cloud flowers in the sky" (1.4.94). We take this as a bad sign for the future of her and John's relationship.
  • Scene Six. John comes home with some irises for his wife. But when he tries to give them to her, she can't understand what he's saying. All she hears is "babble babble babble."
  • Scene Seven. Yolanda writes her husband a note, saying she's leaving, and goes to her parents' house.
  • Yolanda can't stop quoting things. She talks nonstop, until her parents get so worried they check her into a mental hospital.
  • Scene Eight: Yolanda develops a serious crush on Doc. He's going to make everything better. Plus, he's super dreamy in his work out clothes.
  • Yolanda stops quoting things. She tells her parents she loves them, and that she and John "just didn't speak the same language."
  • Scene Nine: Yolanda is in a therapy session with Doc. She asks him what "love" means, but she can't look him in the eye, or he'll be able to tell that she's in love with him.
  • Yolanda can't say certain words out loud without breaking into an allergic rash. Like "love" and "alive."
  • Okay, thus ends the flashback of the Life of Yolanda/Yo/Joe/Yoyo.
  • We're back in the hospital, and Yolanda is at the window, watching Doc. She thinks she might start writing again.
  • Yolanda's tummy hurts and starts to rumble. Is it indigestion? Hunger? A heart attack? Nope. It's a giant, black bird that flies out of her throat. Uh, weird.
  • The black bird flaps its wings and flies out the window, right through the screen. It sees Doc on the lawn below, and dive bombs him. The bird tears open Doc's chest and flies away. Doc is a "red sop" (1.4.158).
  • Aww, not Doc! Not the one person in the world that Yolanda wants to protect from her own words.
  • When Yoyo calls out to him, Doc stands up and grabs his red beach towel. What Yoyo thought was blood becomes terry cloth. Whew.
  • "Oh, Joe!" Doc laughs and waves. And then Yoyo starts to feel a little itchy... oh no. She's allergic to her own name.
  • Yoyo tries to get over her word allergy by saying the words out loud, and then placing them into the "empty nest" where her heart used to be (1.4.140). She gets more confident as she goes along, saying "love," and then "Yolanda."
  • Sounds like Yolanda the poet has got her groove back. Get it, gurl. "There is no end to what can be said about the world," the chapter ends.

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