“It seemed to Alejo that he was crying, though all he heard were the wind-tossed trees. Even the gaping hole in his own shirt hung like a speechless mouth on his belly” (22).
Alejo watches as the boy in the barn cuts himself on a piece of glass. Afterwards the boy cries silently and Alejo is reminded of his own speechlessness. The boy's inaudible cries and Alejo's hanging shirt both represent the migrant workers' marginal position in society, where they are denied a voice. Nobody in broader American society listens to their stories, complaints or ideas. Viramontes' language communicates the scene's creepy mood; she invokes the sound of "wind-tossed trees" and the image of "gaping" mouths to portray the barn's unsettling ambiance.
“The driver released the bolt of the back door, and the first of the piscadores were herded out of the corralled flatbed” (67).
Estrella and Alejo ride with other migrant laborers to the fields. Instead of being seated on busses, the workers are forced into the back of a truck and locked in. Viramontes' word choice reflects the dehumanization that this process entails. She describes workers being "herded" and "corralled," implicitly comparing their treatment to that of animals. The owners and overseers don't view the laborers as human beings, but as livestock. The author's imagery draws attention to the poor working conditions and human rights abuses that occur in American fields.
“Dirty face, fingernails lined with mud, her tennis shoes soiled, brown smears like coffee stains on her dress where she had cleaned her hands” (137).
In the nurse's presence, Estrella feels suddenly self-conscious; she begins noticing the state of her face, hands, and clothing. By itemizing each dirty item, Viramontes stresses how unkempt Estrella appears. While the nurse is dressed in crisp white, Estrella is a associated with the brown color of dirt, "mud," and "coffee stains." Estrella's appearance reflects her lower social position in American society, just as the nurse's appearance reflects her own middle-class position.
“She looked down to see specks of shattered glass just inches away from the lantern, and for a moment she imagined golden flaming eels dangerously nipping at the straw on the ground" (174).
Estrella imagines fire consuming the barn, her language recalling an earlier passage from a religious tract where "tongues of fire" represent the Holy Spirit (31). Viramontes' description highlights both the beauty and danger of such fire. The blaze is "golden," but "dangerous" (174). This religious fire signifies Estrella's empowerment and transformation; she has become her own Holy Spirit or God or Jesus. Instead of looking to religion, Estrella relies on herself and her capacity for action. The fire illuminates her newfound spiritual strength.
Under the Feet of Jesus Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Under the Feet of Jesus is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.