Literary Analysis

Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・English ・MLA ・1 Sources


The novel The book of unknown Americans that was written by Christina Henriquez comprise of three main themes; that is, the purpose of characters’ divergent immigration status in the tale, what it takes to be an ‘American’ and how the nation takes and perceive it citizen as well as the role played by Alma when she grows and changes in course of the novel. Even though the book touched on many interesting aspects, most of its story line revolved around these themes. The immigrants go through some challenges which are inevitable according to Henriquez. Therefore, they are always victims of circumstances as a result of their status and affiliation. Henriquez among other characters in this book are victims of circumstances and they refer to themselves as the unknown Americans. Even though they call themselves as the unknown Americans, no one in the community is concern of their wear about. They thought that people would be not scared of the title since they are not bad people by missing proper documentation to be in United States. This declaration articulates around the themes of the book as a choral structure is comprised of first person’s reminiscences from arrays actors from Latin American nations like Panama, Mexico, Paraguay, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. All these characters talk to the readers directly about their reason to come to United States. With regard to these remarks, this literary analysis seeks to discuss the theme of characters struggling with their immigration status.

Literary Analysis

In this novel Henriquez depicts the immigrations issues both culturally and socially by the Hispanic people. Even though the characters hail from south and central of America, Henriquez purposely chooses not to address the political setting of immigration. In fact, the immigration status of the fictional characters has nothing to do with their destiny, and it is not primarily to their individuality or how they interact with each other. Throughout this novel, all of the fictional characters are Americans and they have no struggle to arrive in their nation (United States). However, Henriquez concentrates on the emotional content of their lives, which emphasizes the book’s structure. The novel uses first person’s voice to tell the story from different fictional characters. Most of the characters form part of the narrative, while others do not. This might be another way the author portrays different nation’s perception as a testimony.

It is perhaps beyond reasonable doubt that most of the immigrants in this novel migrated to United States for the sake of their children. Most of the children were well educated and some were even delighted to go to the university. For instance, Alma and Arturo were already attending school prior to their departure. Even though some of these characters were poor, their choice to migrate to United States was transpired by economic reasons. Arturo and Alma were not attracted with America’s lifestyle, values, or ideas, since they were not inspired to be Americans. Instead, they migrated to United States to fix their children’s needs but they did not think of it as an immigration issue. The idea of American dream was a common phenomenon among the immigrants; they usually think of coming to get whatever they need and later go back to their mother nation. As a result of their immigration, they came to understand that being an American is not a matter of completion; instead, there is a spectrum comprising of many legal aspects. Therefore, the book raises the question as to when do one transits to be an American?

The setting in the Delaware interrupts one’s perspective towards the stereotype of immigration. Henriquez’s fictional character lived on the fringes of the town in a dilapidated apartment. The surrounding of the apartment was bleak, unattractive, and isolated. The occupants in the apartment did not have time to interact with others bearing in mind that the neighbors were Latinos and Americans from the mainstream culture. This was a common occurrence in most of the urban immigration stories. However, this was contrary to the perspective of the people living around the outskirts. They used to converge in the Dollar tree as well as convenience. All the foods were processed and were not much appealing. This was contrary to the presentation of American as pointed out by most of the immigrants.

Right from the beginning, Alma takes the character of a ofa caretaker and later changes in course of the tale. In the beginning, Alma exhibited nostalgia where she kept in looking back. She had much fantasies concerning Maribel’s education, the challenges they went through in Mexico, and finally, the threat they encountered in America. Towards the end of the book, Alma had adjusted to the situation and moved on with her life (Henríquez 55). She manages to forgive Maribel for the accident and accepts the new status that Maribel is another person all together. She was also able to put up with the heartbreak of Arturo’s death. When she was going back to Mexico, Alma was composed with hopes and belief that she could still make it and start a new life all over again. This seems to be a common trait for most of the American immigrants

Towards the end of the two meetings, a fellow Delve participant developed a new perspective of what it entails to be an American, and perhaps understanding why people often go to United States. These incidences indicate what immigrants usually go through in course of following their dreams. From this point of view, one can infer that one’s nationality plays a crucial factor towards the storyline of this novel. Most of the time in this book, the Americans are depicted to be privileged of the immigrants, as such, most of the fictional characters in this book tend to defend their positions.

The understanding of this book further illustrates that the characters’ status quo in addition to their immigration status contributed much in their struggle. The motive of this novel is pure but the fictional characters in them admit that they are not privileged since the world does not save them; instead, it betrays them. They are rendered invisible of their actual lives. The book ends when most of the characters do not actually understand their fate just like when the book was beginning. Despite the grief of most of the characters, the book is still readable and interesting to many people. The author doesn’t solely believe in her own story, so she opts to bolts on themes, elements, characters to lend aura to the narrative.To some considerable degree, she was not confident of characters to speak of themselves, since they might have not portrayed the story as she did. Therefore, she added humanity in her characters whenever she felt that they were lacking (Henríquez 67).


In summary, the novel The book of unknown Americans depicts some of the struggle that immigrants do go through as a result of their status. Most of them are always inspired by their dream for beautiful America only to turn out that things do not do as they thought. Security and freedom is portrayed to be among the challenges they encounter. Even though each and every character’s version of their American dream differs, most of the characters are blocked from pursuing what they had in mind owing to their status. They do leave their mother nations for United States with much hopes and belief and later, confine themselves by the same situation. Despite the fact that this book revolves around many aspects, it is clear that most of the themes in the book concentrates to account for one’s affiliation if not status. One can actually understand what it means to be a legal citizen of a given nation. One may be physically in a nation but without proper documentations, he or she may not be eligible for some services within the nation. However, there are instances where the book uses other characters to open up the story line of the novel so that it can sound like a bigger and a representative book. The example of such scenario is the story about Mayor and Maribel being interrupted by soliloquies from Henriquez’s chorus of immigrants. Quite often, there are unnecessary distractions from the tale of Toro and Rivera families which according to them, encapsulate around the American dream.

Work Cited

Henríquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel. , New York: Prince Frederick, MD, 2014. Print.

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