Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Sense of Place

The "sense of place" Martínez talks about builds upon the literary term "setting"; the "sense" of place is more than simply describing when and where the action is taking place. It gives the reader a better idea of the characters in the book and what's going on around them. In ¡Caramba!, where Natalie and Consuelo are at the Big Five-Four, "Hey Baby, ¿Qué Pasó?" and "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" are playing from the jukebox. But why are those songs playing in the background? Even more, why should the song titles be mentioned in the first place? Upon further investigation, that's where the "sense of place" comes in.

A sampling of "Hey Baby, ¿Qué Pasó?":
Hey, baby, que paso?
Thought I was your only vato
Hey, baby, que paso?
Please don't leave me de ese modo

Come on, baby, turn around
Let me show you how I feel
Don't you that I love you
And my corazón is real
Based upon the Texas Tornadoes' rendition, "Hey Baby" is a fun, light-hearted song. It's supposed to be something catchy, crowd-pleasing, and danceable, even though the lyrics sing about a man longing for her lover to come back. The reason why this song plays as Natalie walks out of the bathroom is because it acts as her theme song: she likes to have fun, and she's not looking for a serious relationship.

"Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" (again, a sample):
Wasted days and wasted nights,
I have left for you Behind
for you don't belong to me,
your heart belongs to someone else.

Why should I keep loving you,
when I know that you're Not true?
And why should I call your name,
when you're to blame
for making me Blue?
This song starts playing when Cid is rejected by Consuelo. According to the book, he's had a crush on Consuelo "since the day he made her acquaintance, roughly ten years ago." Upon listening to Freddy Fender's performance, it's a slow, but very sentimental song. After reading the lyrics, the reader can conclude that Cid really likes Consuelo, but after ten years of rejection, he's not sure if he should keep pursuing her.

Despite their significance in the story, they're not very deep or introspective songs; they're simple to understand. Even while digging through YouTube, there aren't numerous "versions" or "interpretations" than some of the other songs mentioned in this class. Nonetheless, they are important in character development.

However, this scene's "sense of place" may confuse the reader more than it clarifies. Normally, the character developments are all in the book, and it shouldn't require outside research to get a sense of what's going on. But Martínez inserts these songs assuming the reader knows what she is alluding to. So for those who aren't familiar with mariachi or rockabilly music, they're just titles to a song.

1 comment:

  1. Good, Anthony. I like the idea that "HBQP?" is Nat's "theme song" as you say. And you're absolutely right that despite the playfulness of the book, Martinez doesn't make it easy on her readers to interpret the setting, characters, or even action, if they aren't familiar with the songs. What might that suggest about the playful, fun songs themselves?