Zoot Suit

Zoot Suit Summary and Analysis of Part 5


Scene 7. Alice. The guard at the prison reads a letter from Alice to Henry. In one, she writes about how horrible the riots are, and about the fact that they have spurred race riots all over the country: in Chicago, Detroit, and Beaumont Texas. "...the one in Harlem was the worst. Millions of dollars worth of property damage. 500 people were hospitalized, and five Negroes were killed," she writes.

Another letter tells of a gala fundraiser at the Mocambo, for which Rita Hayworth lent Henry's sister a gown. Lupe got dressed at Cecil B. DeMille's house, she writes, then asks why he isn't responding. The guard finally brings the letters to Henry, who has reached the end of his time in solitary confinement.

Henry opens one of the letters, and Alice reads it, saying that she just found out he was in solitary for 90 days for striking a guard. Alice is worried that Henry's time in solitary will hurt his reputation, which angers Henry. Alice is convinced that they will not lose, but Henry is not so sure. As the fight escalates, Alice gets upset, and it becomes clear that they have feelings for one another. She tells him she cannot allow herself to feel love for him, but he asks her to give it a chance. "If I thought making love to you would solve all your problems, I'd do it in a second...But it won't. It'll only complicate things," she says.

Henry is offended, suggesting that he is not just attracted to her because she is white, and insisting that she is not so special. Suddenly, she slaps him, in "a whirlpool of emotions." They begin to embrace and kiss passionately, when they are interrupted by the guard, who says their time is up. Before she leaves, Alice tells him that Rudy joined the Marines, and they both agree to write to one another.

Henry addresses Pachuco, saying he knows now that they will win the appeal, but Pachuco is nowhere to be found. The guard walks up and tells him they're taking him to Folsom Prison, and that he has no chance of winning his appeal.

As Henry and the guard walk off, El Pachuco appears again and raises his arms, as the sound of a bomb floods the stage. Scene 8. The Winning of the War. Bombs explode as soldiers come onstage, including Rudy in his Navy uniform. He says goodbye to the family and joins the other military men. The Press enters and announces that in July of 1943, the Allies seem certain to win the war.

After reciting the events of the war, the ensemble announces that the boys in the Sleepy Lagoon murder case win their appeal and are given freedom. A joyous crowd enters, and the boys come onstage, returned to their lives outside prison.

Scene 9. Return to the Barrio. "Soldado Razo" plays to the joy of all the people in the barrio. Henry is reunited with his family and Della. Rudy has also returned from the war, via Hawaii, and the family celebrates the return of the two sons. Pachuco enters the action and says that this happy ending is the perfect way to end the play, but then remembers, "The barrio's still out there, waiting and wanting./The cops are still tracking us down like dogs./The gangs are still killing each other,/Families are barely surviving,/And there in your own backyard...life goes on."

Henry embraces Della, and she tells him she's been living in his house, after her parents kicked her out when she chose to be with him. When Della mentions that her parents expect them to get married, Henry says he has to think about it and they are interrupted by Alice, who comes to say good night. Different people begin to surround Henry, starting conversations with him, all at once. Della wants an answer, and Alice expresses the fact that she and Henry cannot be together.

Henry tells Alice that he's never been so close to anyone as he was to her in prison. Henry tells Rudy that he saved Rudy from arrest, so that he would not have a criminal record. He tells Della that he can no longer be with her.

At some point, news gets out that Tommy is in a fight with a cop outside, but when Henry goes to help, Enrique stops him. They get in a fight, but Henry embraces his father. Della, then Dolores, then Lupe, then Rudy all join the embrace.

Many different endings are presented. Press enters and says, "Henry Reyna went back to prison in 1947 for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. While incarcerated, he killed another inmate and he wasn't released until 1955, when he got into hard drugs. He died of the trauma of his life in 1972."

Rudy offers an alternative ending, in which Henry fights in the Korean War and is posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Alice tells a story in which Henry marries Della and has five children, three of whom go to college.

Pachuco ends the play saying, "Henry Reyna...El Pachuco...The man...the myth...still lives."


In the midst of the trial and all the political turmoil taking place, it becomes clear that Alice and Henry have feelings for one another. Their professional relationship has become personal, and Alice fears that she cannot fulfill the romantic and sexual needs that Henry has, saying, "...I can't allow myself to be used to fill in for all the love you've always felt and always received from all your women." In this moment, Alice's desire to help Henry blends with her attraction to him, and she cannot quite parse out what part of her wants to save him and what part of her wants to give herself to him sexually.

Part of the thrill and romance of Alice and Henry's relationship has to do with its passion, whether that be sexual or emotional. In the midst of their conversation, Alice suggests that she cannot be Henry's "white woman" and he gets angry at the thought that she imagines herself to be some kind of gift to him. "I've had more white pieces of ass than you can count...Who do you think you are? God's gift to us brown animals," he says, tauntingly, and Alice slaps him. After the slap, the two of them come together in a passionate flurry of kisses, their bitter words turned to tenderness in a complex web.

After the Zoot Suit Riots, and his humiliation at the hands of the white serviceman, El Pachuco disappears for a time. When Henry goes to speak to him, after his passionate interaction with Alice, Pachuco is nowhere to be found, which represents the demoralizing effects of the riots and the racist violence on the Chicano spirit. El Pachuco, who hitherto has held such a power over the stage and the events that have taken place on it, has retreated in the wake of the violence, a symbolic and theatrical representation of the disempowerment of the Chicano population.

The 38th Street Gang ends up winning their appeal and returning to the barrio triumphantly. It is celebrated as one of the greatest Mexican victories in America, but El Pachuco, in all his complexity, seeks to expose the fact that things are not that simple, and that the struggles of Mexican Americans continue. In a poetic monologue to the audience, he discusses the fact that cops still hate Mexicans, that the gangs remain violent, and that there is still much to be desired in life in the barrio. While the victory is great, it does not really change the lives of Mexicans in America.

The play ends on an ambiguous note. Different characters present different visions of Henry's fate, but it is left unclear which version is the truth. One imagines him going back to prison, another imagines him joining the army, another imagines him starting a family. The ambiguity of Henry's fate has the effect of turning him into a mythical entity, someone about whom nothing is sure, and indeed, El Pachuco, in the last line of the play, suggests that Henry becomes El Pachuco, and lives forever in this mythical role.