The lush landscape seems ironic when juxtaposed against the characters' tragic lives. Instead of being sparse and ugly, the orchards and fields are set in beautiful locations, which are described in romantic prose. Viramontes' descriptive and picturesque language serves to highlight the irony of the scenery. This irony is used to help draw attention to just how desperate and difficult the lives of Estrella and her family are.
School without Learning
In Under the Feet of Jesus, school is not depicted as a place of learning. Unexpectedly, it becomes a source of humiliation; teachers are more concerned with Estrella's cleanliness than her intellect. Ironically it is Perfecto, an ignorant laborer, who prompts Estrella to learn how to read. Given her marginalized position in society, many of the support systems that aid other citizens are unavailable to Estrella. Even schools, which should serve everyone, deny her access to opportunities and education. The teacher's prejudices interfere, forcing Estrella to rely on her own will.
Starving while Harvesting Food
Ironically, Estrella and her family are hungry, despite collecting food all day. Like a man dying of thirst while surrounded by the ocean, the migrant family must struggle to feed itself while being surrounded by abundance. At the corner store, Petra carefully checks the price of each can, conscious that she cannot afford to easily feed her children. Alejo even resorts to stealing to supplement his income. Harvesting crops pays starvation wages. This irony highlights the cruelty of the family's situation; they cannot enjoy the benefits of the society they contribute so much too. They pick crops for others, but cannot afford to eat them.
Threatening the Nurse
Readers would expect threatening another person with violence in order to avoid paying for services to be a thoroughly immoral act. Yet ironically, Viramontes' portrays Estrella's actions as both brave and honorable. The wider context throughout Under the Feet of Jesus renders an otherwise indefensible act noble. The ongoing exploitation and erasure of laborers means Estrella must resort to the threat of violence in order to secure basic medical care for Alejo. By threatening the nurse she is defending the weak and challenging a power structure that oppresses and marginalizes migrant workers.
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.