Study Guide

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Part 1, Chapter 5

By Julia Alvarez

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Part 1, Chapter 5

 The Rudy Elmenhurst Story (Yolanda)

  • When they were young, Yolanda and her sisters took turns competing to see who could be the wildest. For a couple of years, while Yolanda was in boarding school, she was the one to win the title.
  • If Yolanda were to be crowned "Little Miss Wild Child," she'd have to give an acceptance speech that started like this: "I'd like to thank all the shy prep school boys who made this possible. I couldn't have done it without you, and my vivacious personality."
  • Thing is, Yolanda was just hanging out with these boys. They talked, they flirted, they blushed. But there was never any bodily contact.
  • When she got to college, Yolanda was still "vivacious." Her flirting skills were in fine form.
  • But she couldn't keep a boy interested. Why not? Yolanda's theory is this: the boys lost interest because she wouldn't have sex with them.
  • If that seems harsh, unfair, or just plain wrong to you (like it does to us), Yolanda asks us to consider the context:
  • It was the late sixties. In many ways, social rules about sexual behavior were really loosening up. As Yolanda puts it, "everyone was sleeping around as a matter of principle" (1.5.3). It was a sexual revolution, man.
  • But the new standards of sexual behavior meant that you were pretty much expected to have lots of sex in college. If you didn't, you were weird.
  • Yolanda wasn't ready to jump on board the "free love" train, and as a result, she wasn't going to win any popularity contests.
  • What made Yolanda different? Maybe if she analyzes this story about her first college boyfriend, she'll figure it out. Here goes:
  • There's this boy. His name was Rudolf Brodermann Elmenhurst, The Third. Yolanda meets him in her English seminar.
  • Yolanda feels out of place. But maybe Rudolf Brodermann Elmenhurst, The Third will be her friend. After all, he has a funny name, too.
  • It all starts when Yolanda lends him a pencil. That night, Rudy returns the pencil to Yolanda... in her dorm room.
  • Rudy invites her out for lunch, which turns into dinner. Yolanda is in major crush mode.
  • Rudy is super sexy, and super cool. He's so cool, he doesn't even bother turning in his homework on time.
  • Yolanda spends her weekend helping Rudy do his late work, which is to write a love sonnet a.k.a. the best excuse for a second date we've ever heard of.
  • Rudy's sonnet is full of sexy double meanings that Yolanda is too naive to understand. He has to explain them to her.
  • She curses her immigrant origins. If she weren't an immigrant, she wouldn't feel so dorky. She'd be having sex, smoking pot, and cursing, just like everybody else.
  • Yolanda starts hanging out with Rudy a lot, and going to parties in his dorm.
  • The parties involve a lot of alcohol and drugs, but Yolanda is too nervous to experiment. She's afraid if she loses control, Rudy might take advantage of her.
  • Rudy is super-offended that Yolanda thinks he would do such a thing.
  • But Yolanda doesn't like the way Rudy talks about sex. Instead of referring to it as "lovemaking," Rudy has a whole series of crude terms for sex. We'll let you look them up (1.5.26).
  • After a month of sexual abstinence, Rudy starts to lose his patience.
  • Yolanda sees a picture of Rudy's youthful, American parents in his dorm room one morning. They're so cool—no wonder Rudy doesn't have any hang-ups or insecurities.
  • Yolanda wishes her parents could be cool and hip. But instead they're just old-fashioned and embarrassing.
  • When Rudy tells his cool parents he's seeing a "Spanish girl," they tell him they're psyched that he's learning about people from other cultures.
  • Uh... first of all, Yolanda's not "Spanish," she's Dominican. And second of all, what do they think she is? A geography lesson?
  • The night before spring break, right before the break-up, Yolanda and Rudy have a big fight in bed. Here's how it all goes down:
  • Yolanda is wearing a long-sleeved flannel nightgown, or, as Rudy calls it, a "nungown."
  • Rudy is buck naked.
  • Yolanda thinks Rudy's body looks pretty scrumptious, but she wants more than just a nice set of sculpted abs. She wants an emotional connection!
  • Here's where Rudy gets really offensive. He says he thought Yolanda would be "really free," since she's "Spanish and all." But instead she's even more "hung up" than most American prep school girls (1.5.33).
  • Yolanda puts her coat on over her pjs and storms out. But secretly she hopes Rudy will come after her so they can make up. Dream on, Yolanda. Cue every breakup song you've ever heard.
  • The next morning, Yolanda bumps into Rudy and his parents. Awkward.
  • Rudy's parents speak extra slowly to her, and compliment her on not having an accent when she speaks English.
  • After spring break, Rudy doesn't sit next to Yolanda in English class anymore.
  • Yolanda deludes herself into thinking that Rudy is just waiting for the big spring dance to make up with her. She has the fantasy all worked out: they'll dance all night, and cry, and make up, and say: "I love you, shmookykins!" And then they'll make love for the first time.
  • Only, it doesn't pan out like Yolanda plans. The night of the dance, she sees Rudy with another girl.
  • So the Rudy Elmenhurst romance only ends in tears. Rudy the bad boy is a big jerkface, and Yolanda the timid good girl is brokenhearted. Ugh. How depressing.
  • But wait, there's more.
  • Five years later, Yolanda has so moved on. She's had time to figure out the whole sex thing on her own terms, and she's had a couple of lovers.
  • When one night, Yolanda gets a call from out of the blue. It's Rudy.
  • He wants to stop by. It's kinda late, but Yolanda says okay.
  • Rudy comes over and brings an expensive bottle of wine. From the moment he walks in the door, he's trying to put the moves on Yolanda.
  • Finally, Rudy comes out and says it: he's waited five years, and it looks like Yolanda's finally over her sexual hang-ups. Enough talking, let's get naked.
  • Um, ew! What a scumbag. Yolanda kicks him out.
  • But he left behind an expensive bottle of wine. So there's that.
  • Yolanda struggles with the cork for a while, but finally she puts the bottle between her legs and yanks it out. And splashes expensive red wine all over herself.
  • This is a really sexual description of the act of opening a bottle of wine. The narrator, Yolanda, is breaking the seal of a bottle held between her legs. And when it's all over, her clothes have a red stain on them.
  • We bet you'll never look at a wine bottle the same way again.
  • The last line of this chapter is so satisfying. Yolanda takes a swig straight from the bottle, like a "decadent wild woman" who has just told an "unsatisfactory lover" to get lost.

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