Under the Feet of Jesus

One Identity, Two Parts College

The emotional heart of Helena Maria Viramontes' novel, Under the Feet of Jesus, revolves around the mental, physical, and spiritual coming-of-age of Estrella, a 13-year-old Latina girl living with her family on a migrant labor farm. As a foil to Estrella's transformation, Viramontes presents us with another character—Petra, Estrella's mother, who demonstrates immense courage in the face of the same oppression as Estrella, but who processes her frustrations in the opposite way of her daughter, contrasting the externalized, action-based feistiness of Estrella with the internal, faith-based perseverance of her mother.

In the grand scheme of the novel, Estrella's agency is not distillable to one single moment or action—it is built up over the course of Under the Feet of Jesus, resulting in a turning point that represents the infinite moments, realizations, and frustrations that she experiences before it. This gradual coming of age process mirrors, and is intertwined with, Estrella's recovery from the loss of her father, which is first example of emotional growth we see in Estrella. Early in chapter one, we are introduced to the character of the father through flashbacks, a character whose absence distinguishes his role in the...

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