The zoot suits worn by the gang members in the play, and most notably by El Pachuco, is a symbol of Chicano identity. In its flamboyant and heightened formality, the suit represents a sense of pride in one's appearance, as well as rebelliousness and self-direction. During the Zoot Suit Riots, white servicemen strips Chicanos of their zoot suits, and this represents racial oppression and the humiliation of Chicano people.
Throughout the play, Valdez's stage directions tell us that all of the props, including witness stands and jail cells, are to be made out of newspapers and stacks of newspapers. This represents the way that so much of the case is based on public opinion and the media representation of the trial. Facts are less important to many of the white authorities than public perception. The choice to fill the stage with newspapers reflects this.
El Pachuco (Symbol)
El Pachuco is not so much a real character as a phantom and a symbol of Chicano identity. He is a heightened manifestation of Henry's inner voice and the ideal of Pachuco masculinity. El Pachuco is a voice both of reason and of chaos, part guardian angel and part trickster.
Pachuco's disappearance (Allegory)
In the course of the Zoot Suit riots, Pachuco is stripped of his zoot suit, and in the next scene, is nowhere to be found. While he seemed untouchable in the rest of the play, a figment of the Chicano cultural imaginary, he is not immune from the violence of the riots, and his disappearance symbolizes the humiliation faced by Chicano people in this historical incident. It is the only time he leaves the stage, which makes Pachuco's disappearance all the more disorienting and symbolic of a broader humiliation.
Winning the appeal (Allegory)
At the end of the case, the members of the 38th Street Gang end up winning their appeal and going free, instead of facing life imprisonment. This allegorizes the triumph of the Chicano community in spite of the court and the media's aims to punish them based on racial discrimination. The victory symbolizes the change that can be effected when people come together to fight injustice.
Zoot Suit Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Zoot Suit is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
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