Check Your Understanding

As you reread the beginning of “Tuesday Siesta,” think about how the author structures paragraphs 1-4 by describing the characters and the setting. Think about what the author includes, and what he leaves out. What effect does the author achieve? Highlight textual evidence and use the annotation tool to explain each of your choices. Then summarize your annotations in two or three sentences.
(CCSS: RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.5)

Acceptable highlighted items might include “poor mourning clothes,” in paragraph 3, “a peeling patent leather handbag,” in paragraph 4, and other descriptions to show the poverty of the two main characters. In paragraph 4, the characters’ physical appearance is described in this way: “The girl was twelve years old.” Sitting beside her, the “woman seemed too old to be her mother, because of the blue veins on her eyelids, and her small, soft, and shapeless body, in a dress cut like a cassock.She was riding with her spinal column braced firmly against the back of the seat.” At the end of paragraph 4, the author provides a telling description of the mother: “She wore the conscientious serenity of someone accustomed to poverty.” To show setting, in paragraph 1, the author writes that “the air became humid” and that a “stifling blast of smoke came in the car window.” However, at “eleven in the morning,” the “heat had not yet begun.” The “interminable banana plantations” that the train passes suggest the sameness of the landscape. The intervening “offices with electric fans” suggest hasty modernization, perhaps suggesting the 1950s. Possible summary: The author has structured the early paragraphs to establish a sense of oppressive heat, poverty, and lethargy. He has purposefully omitted the names of the characters and the name of the town, indicating that the setting, characters, and situation could exist anywhere in Latin America, as the mother and daughter seem symbolic of the poor who are dismissed as being unimportant.

The mother makes certain demands on her daughter in paragraphs 2, 8, 10, and 12. What demands does she make? Why does she make them? How might they also represent the larger cultural context of the selection? Highlight textual evidence to support your ideas and write annotations to explain your choices.
(CCSS: RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.3, RL.9-10.5, RL.9-10.6)

Acceptable highlights include but are not limited to the following: As evidence of her imperious temperament, in paragraph 2, the mother harshly says to her daughter,”‘You’d better close the window . . . .Your hair will get full of soot.'” In paragraph 8, she commands, “‘Put on your shoes,'” and in paragraph 10, “‘Comb your hair.'” In paragraph 12, she orders her daughter not to “‘take a drink anywhere even if you’re dying of thirst.'” Finally, she makes this demand: “‘Above all, no crying.'” Her demands all have to do with making sure that her daughter behaves properly and with dignity as she does. In a larger cultural context, the mother’s demands represent the pride and dignity of the poor of Latin America.

Religion is part of the cultural context of the story. What is the role of the priest in the town? How does the priest function in the story’s plot structure? Highlight evidence, including what the priest says and does, as well as how the mother interacts with him. Support your inferences with specific textual evidence.
(CCSS: RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.5, RL.9-10.6)

The parish house is the first place the woman and her daughter go to when they arrive in town. This shows, especially after the flashback in paragraph 42, that the church carries tremendous authority here and that the priest is the voice of authority in the village. For example, he keeps the church records and the keys to the cemetery.Obviously, the Roman Catholic Church is central to this culture for official, as well as for spiritual, reasons. Highlighted items might include, in paragraph 17, “They went directly to the parish house”; in paragraph 41, “The priest scrutinized her [the mother]. She stared at him with quiet self-control, and the Father blushed.” When the priest rebukes the mother, in paragraph 49, “‘Didn’t you ever try to get him on the right track?'”she responds without apology, stating in paragraphs 51 and 53 that her son “‘was a very good man,'” and that she “‘told him never to steal anything that anyone needed to eat, and he minded me.'” When she explains that her son had to box to feed the family, losing all his teeth in the process, in paragraph 56, the priest gives his stock response, “‘God’s will is inscrutable.'” In paragraph 52, the priest is amazed that neither the woman nor the girl “were about to cry,” as the women refute both gender and class stereotypes. The woman’s refusal to accept anything from the priest, except for directions to her son’s grave–even refusing the sister’s offer of her parasol–implies the woman’s unwillingness to accept anything from the Church, which she may feel has forsaken the poor.

The author reveals in a flashback something that happened to the woman’s son. Describe what happened. Why do you think García Márquez chose to use a flashback? What effect does it have on your understanding of all the events of the plot that have come before? Highlight your evidence from the text and make annotations to explain the effect.
(CCSS: RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.5)

Highlights might include, in paragraph 42: “She [Rebecca] clutched the weapon with both hands, closed her eyes, and squeezed the trigger”; “It was the first time in her life that she had fired a gun”; “Then she heard a little metallic bump on the cement porch, and a very low voice, pleasant but terribly exhausted: ‘Ah, Mother.'” Possible annotation: From the author’s use of a flashback, the reader learns why the mother and daughter have come to this place. The flashback interrupts the story, adding tension, surprise, and drama. It also helps to explain the key event–the son’s death–around which the plot revolves.

Do you think the author wants the reader to feel empathy for the main characters? Why or why not? Do any of the other characters empathize with them? How might the compassion felt by the reader help you to better understand the theme (or message) of the text? Use details and evidence from the text to support your responses.
(CCSS: RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.2)

Although the daughter and the mother are portrayed as stoic figures, and consequently, difficult to empathize with, it does seem that García Márquez wants the reader to feel compassion for the two main characters. He portrays them as having hard lives that they are facing alone, but with extreme dignity, which may express the theme: living with dignity in the face of tragic circumstances. In addition, he has other characters (the priest and his sister) begin by treating them skeptically, but then more kindly. García Márquez also tells the reader that the mother and daughter are in mourning before mentioning in paragraph 40 that the dead person–the thief–was the woman’s son, making the mother and daughter more sympathetic. In paragraphs 53-55, when the author gives the reader context for the son’s becoming a thief, the son arouses sympathy as well. Possible highlights: “the only passengers in the lone third-class car” (paragraph 3), which highlights their solitude and poverty; “conscientious serenity of someone accustomed to poverty” (paragraph 4); “quiet self-control” (paragraph 41); “‘he [the son] used to spend three days in bed, exhausted from being punched'” (paragraph 53); “‘All his teeth had to be pulled out'” (paragraph 54). The son’s brutal history allows the reader to feel empathy for him, in addition to his being described in the flashback as sounding “pleasant but terribly exhausted” as he utters “‘Ah, mother,'” his dying words.