Study Guide

Papá in The Circuit


Papá is Francisco's dad and Mamá's hubby, and he works hard to keep his family together.

Okay here's the truth: Papá can be grumpy. He's under a ton of stress in this book and we can't blame him—after all, he's always on the lookout for places where he and his family can work and live. Plus he's working hard in the fields himself. It sounds like a lot of pressure to us.

On top of all that stress, Papá has seriously high expectations for his kids. When Francisco fails to prove that he can fill his own cotton bag, for instance, you can bet Papá isn't a happy camper:

Frustrated and disappointed, I walked over to Papá. He straightened up and looked down at me. His eyes were red and watery from the cold. Before I said anything, he looked at Roberto, who bravely kept on picking, and told me to go over to the fire. I knew then I had not yet earned my own cotton sack. (8.33)

It is cold and this is hard work, but instead of welcoming Francisco's help, Papá sends him over to the fire. He doesn't yell or speak unkindly to his son, but it is also clear that Francisco has failed to measure up, at least as far as cotton-picking goes.

By the end of the book, Papá is suffering from some serious back pain, and he's unable to work in the fields. It's a big bummer on a practical level, plus all that pain gives Papá another reason to be grumpy and stressed, which isn't cool.

What do you think about Papá's transition from working in the fields to struggling with injuries? Do these experiences change him? Or does he pretty much stay the same? Is it possible that his resistance to letting Francisco work in the fields is because he wants his son to stay in school as long as possible?