Cultural shock is a common feeling a person experiences when transitioning into a completely different environment and living situation. Throughout the world, immigrants experience many difficulties when assimilating into a new culture. The novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez, illustrates these challenges. Throughout the novel, we see how different aspects of culture shock impact the Garcia family.
In this essay I will discuss how particular events change each family member’s Dominican cultural values and identity.As the family became immersed with the traditions of contemporary American culture, they began to forge conflicting identities and values, which led to the dissolution of the family. One effect of culture shock was the dramatic changes in family relationships, which were caused by conflicting values among family members. This family matter was the primary struggle throughout the novel. Another aspect of culture shock is the life style changes a person undergoes when transitioning into a new foreign culture. A person is likely to change certain ways of living in order to survive in the new country.In the novel each girl slowly deviated from certain traditional Dominican cultural values that she grew up with. This typically causes emotional distress, identity loss, and inability to adjust.
The most prevalent form of cultural clash is a language barrier. The person who is moving into a foreign country usually must learn the countries native language and customs in order to successfully communicate with citizens of the domestic country. Another impact associated with cultural shock is the difficulty to accept prevalent values and beliefs within the foreign culture.Identity loss occurs when a person feels as if his or her identity has become replaced or eliminated due to a change in social status or place in society. Despite the numerous disadvantages of moving into a different culture, there are several advantages that come from moving to a different continent.
A few major reasons as to why someone moves into a different country is because of criminal charges, a more prosperous job or promising living situation, or a life-threatening situation that is occurring within their native country.In the novel How the Garcia Girls lost their accents, the reason why the Garcia girls moved was due to a small revolution in the Dominican Republic (107). This usually affords the family a way to resolve whatever financial deficit or liability they were facing in their previous country. When a person experiences cultural shock, it is common for him or her to experience feelings of trauma and frustration towards the counterculture. These feelings are produced by any drastic changes seen within the counterculture that overwhelm the foreigner.It appears as if the most dramatic feelings of cultural shock occur within the first few months of moving to an alternative country.
Other feelings of cultural integration shock take much longer to manifest. Every member of the Garcia family experienced several different feelings of cultural shock. One event, which produced a feeling of cultural shock, was when Carla met a pervert. This event occurred when she was walking to school and encountered a man in a car who gestured her to come over to him.Once she came over to his car she noticed that he had a string tied around his erect penis.
This event perplexed her and created confusion (157). Another disturbing event which created cultural shock was when Sandra tried on a tampon. This event embarrassed the mother. The ethnic’s slurs that the girls were subject while walking to school produced another initial feeling of cultural shock.
They Garcia girls were constantly being made fun of for their English slurs and pubescent stage of growth(153). These experiences are commonly associated with families that move into foreign cultures.It seems as if the more severe and traumatic the events are the more likely the family is to move away from their present community. As a result of these “American problems” the mother decides to move the family into boarding schools in order to avoid these cultural conflicts. Discrimination is a common problem foreign students face when initially transitioning into a foreign countries school.
Several aspects of educational institutions in America are much different from those in the Dominican, and these differences create tension and conflict among foreign students and native peers.Several of the events that the Garcia girls experienced are common negative aspects of cultural integration. Harassment and discrimination are common forms of cultural conflicts that occur between two opposing cultures. Cultural values that have become forged into a person’s life usually remain with them for long periods of time. In this case, the Garcia girls were unable to completely adjust their perspectives of Dominican values to accommodate to their Americanized living situation.
They held on to their traditional Dominican values, which conflicted with American culture. As a result, they experienced harassment and discrimination. The relationship between Yolanda and Rudy exemplified a negative aspect of cultural conflict. Because this novel took place during the sexual revolution, sex was a prominent aspect of American values. Rudy embraced the ideology that sex should be an enjoyable event that should not be taken seriously. He continuously incorporated vulgar terminology in his conversations he had with her about sex.
Contrary to these American values, certain countries such as the Dominican take sexual interaction very seriously and create laws to regulate and control its occurrence. Throughout her life, Yolanda’s family has embraced the Dominican values regarding sexual practices. These values have become instilled in Yolanda’s mind from her child hood and have been endowed upon her by her parent’s. Because of these conditions, Yolanda frigidly desired to remain a pure and chaste virgin and believed that Rudy should appreciate her native beliefs.This conflict in cultural values created a feeling of oppression and tension between Rudy and Yolanda’s sexual beliefs (96). She found herself struggling to choose between her Dominican values, which she finds too oppressive, and Rudy’s American values that she finds too casual. This cultural conflict takes some time to overcome but eventual Yolanda decides to overcome some of her insecurities. Her submission to American culture is seen through her drinking of alcohol and the way she defined the boundaries of her sexual relationships.
Because her native values were so imbedded in her mind it took a while to adjust her believes to accept Rudy’s perception of sex. The relationship between Manuel and Sofia exemplified culture conflict. After Sophia became so exposed to the casual attitudes of sexual interactions in America she has difficulty accepting the sexual double standards that remain in more pronounced ways back in the Dominican Republic. When she is sent to the Dominican Republic, her Americanized values are seen in the way she expresses her sexual will.While she is trying to readjust to the Dominican environment she decides to shock her Dominican relatives by dating her first cousin Manuel. She did this because she wanted to shock her closed-minded relatives and show them her new American values. She decides to submit herself to the sexual advances made by Manuel.
This event portrays how American values have altered Sofia’s view toward sex and caused her to willingly partake in sexual activity absent the use of a contraceptive (123). Also she displays a sense of cultural conflict when trying to become appreciated by Manuel.Because Manuel is such a bossy and possessive person, she is forced to act submissively in order to readjust into traditional Dominican gender roles.
This submission also created tension among her sisters. They were resentful towards Sofia’s submissive attitude and believed she should hold on to her Americanized attitude towards relationships. Her sisters told on her in order to satisfy their desire to rebel against Dominican’s sexual double standards.
This shows how much American culture has changed the sister’s perspective of morals and how it had an impact on their view of Sofia’s relationship with Manuel.This situation is an example of how difficult it is to decide which cultural values are correct and which are incorrect. When a person is immersed in a new manner of life and living they are forced to make the decision of whether or not they should support the new cultures values and beliefs. Each culture holds a different standpoint towards particular beliefs, and it can be challenging to decide what beliefs should be embraced and discounted. In this situation, three of the sisters have chosen to embraced their Americanized cultural values while one has chosen to adhere to her native Dominican values.This situation created tension amongst the Garcia family, and portrayed the difficulties each sister faced when negotiating the boundaries between both American and Dominican beliefs. A primary example of cultural displacement is also seen with the mother’s difficulty adjusting to her new living situation.
As an American mom, Laura struggles to find her identity and feels as if she has lost her role as a Dominican mother. She becomes immersed in the American culture and has trouble adjusting her life to suit the role of an American mom. She tried to think of profitable business ventures in order to make money and become prosperous.She eventually fails and becomes sad and depressed because of the realization that her social status was eliminated once she became an American citizen. This is a common problem associated with changing class levels as a result of moving into a more dominant country.
When someone moves into a much more developed, intricate, advanced, and highly economical social environment they become overwhelmed by the differences and demands they are confronted with. This adverse effect of cultural shock, also known as identity loss, occurs when a person doesn’t know their place in society. Another event hat adversely affected the mother dramatically was when she caught her daughter’s bag of marijuana. When the mother caught Sofia with the bag of marijuana she was offended and became so upset with her that she sent her back to the Dominican Republic.
This punishment was a caused by the mother’s inability to accept contemporary American cultural practices. Taboos within alternative societies are difficult to accept when they conflict with person’s native cultural values. In this situation the mother chose to sustain her adherence to Dominican values and reject her daughters Americanized practices.Another example of cultural conflict was seen in the father’s inability to accept contemporary American values. When the father heard her daughter’s speech that reflected her new traditional American values he becomes angry at Yolanda’s betrayal of traditional Dominican values. On the other hand, her mother supports her efforts to forge a new American identity for herself. The father’s anger came from his adherence to Dominican values that promote child obedience and humble submission towards religious traditions. This behavior is associated with cultural pride and is commonly seen throughout the world.
For example, when Mexicans drive down the road while listening to Spanish music at high volumes, it expresses their Mexican pride. Another example is when Muslims refuse to take off their head covering during funerals or other events where it is respectful to take off all headsets. This behavior is a direct result of conflicting cultural beliefs and typically produces aggravation and hatred between two cultures. Language barriers are the most prominent forms of cultural shock. Throughout the world there are endless dialects and terminologies that exist within a particular society.Every member of the Garcia family encountered struggles with American slang, pronunciation, and morality. An example of a language barrier that was seen in the novel was with the mother’s trouble comprehending her children’s slang. The mother found it difficult to understand some of the metaphors that her children used when arguing with her.
For instance, when they debate over a particular issue they used idioms which she had no familiarity with, such as “green behind the ears”. Although she believed she was a great Dominican mom these cultural differences caused her to feel as if she was a failure as an American mom.Another example of a language barrier was seen within the relationship between John and Yolanda.
During the scene when John brought Yolanda irises, she could only hear “babble babble” when he spoke to her due to John’s inability to relate to Yolanda’s Spanish dialect. The breakup of their marriage was a result of communication issues that stemmed from cultural differences. Cultural shock can be devastating for immigrants moving into a foreign country. Many of them are forced to eliminate their native identity in order to forge a new one within the foreign culture.The title of this novel ideally reflects various events that altered each Garcia girl’s traditional Dominican values and beliefs.
Several cultural conflicts in this novel adversely affected family and interpersonal relationships. Cultural integration created harassment and discrimination issues in the girl’s relationships at school. It also caused the MOTHERNAME to feel displaced and unable to find a new identity within American culture. The sexual beliefs the girls were exposed to in American society altered several of the girl’s initial perceptions of chaste and prudish relationships, which is a prominent aspect of native culture.