The Jacket Essay, Research Paper
In “The JacketGary Soto uses symbolism to reflect on the characterization and development of the narrarator. Soto seems to focus mainly on a jacket, which has several meanings throughout the story. The jacket is used as a symbol to portray poverty, the narrarators insecurity, and the narrarator’s form of self-destruction.
Since the story uses a certain object, the Jacket, as the meaning of several issues, it primarily focuses on the narrarator’s poverty-stricken family. First of all, an example of the poverty is demonstrated when the narrarator complains that the jacket “was so ugly and big that I knew I’d have to wear it a long time”(paragraph 3). It is clear that his lack of money was a problem in which he would have to keep the jacket because he could not afford a new one. The narrarator then feels embarrassed and upset by the jacket by stating “I blame my mother for her bad taste and cheap ways”(paragraph 10). By mentioning his mother’s “cheap” ways he is conveying that he is aggravated because of his mothers option to choose bad and ugly clothes in order to save money. A final way that the jacket is used as a symbol for poverty is implicit when a dog in the story tears the jacket and the narrarator “… Scotch taped it close but in rain or cold weather the tape peeled off like
a scab and more stuffing came out”(paragraph 10). The fact that the narrarator could not fix the torn part of the jacket can indicate that his family is struggling to afford money for themselves. These certain examples help portray the issues of poverty that the narrarator’s family struggles.
The Jacket symbolizes poverty as well as the narrarator’s insecurity throughout the story.
An example of the insecurity that is demonstrated in the story is mentioned when the narrarator’s teachers were of “no help, they looked [his] way and talked about how foolish [he] looked in [his] new jacket” (paragraph 7). The narrarator feels insecure because of his assumptions that his teachers are making fun of him when in fact, they are not noticing him at all. Further more, he continues to say, “At lunchtime I stayed with the ugly boys leaned against the chain link fence… our mouths” (paragraph 9). This statement proves the narrarator is having bad luck because of the jacket and is destroying his reputation at school. A third reason why the jacket symbolizes insecurity is because the fact that his classmates see him with the jacket, he feels that they “…say out loud “man that’s ugly”, I heard the buzz-buzz of gossip and even laughter”
(paragraph 7). Just as he felt the same as he did in the teacher situation, he feels the jacket is something that makes himself like a joke and increases his insecurity.
Self- Destruction is a final meaning for the symbolism of the jacket which helps the character develop himself in the story. When the narrarator felt that the jacket was ruining his life, he claimed “I ran outside, ready to cry, and climbed the tree by the alley to think bad thoughts” (paragraph 10). His bad thoughts were of embarrassment and shame all brought on by the idea of having this certain jacket. Another example was when he had gotten upset and he had thrown the jacket down and he later “…swiped the jacket off the ground and went inside to drape it across [his] leg and started to mope” (paragraph 11). Showing aggravation towards an object shows his frustration towards himself, realizing that he cannot accept the person he has become with the jacket. Finally, when the narrarator states “I spent my sixth-grade year in a tree waiting for something good to happen to me in that jacket” (paragraph 10). The narrarator’s expectation to feel useful in the jacket is what makes him happy.
In conclusion, Gary Soto realizes that without the symbolism of the jacket, there really would be no meaning
to the story. His use of poverty, insecurity, and self-destruction of the narrarator is what makes the story complete.