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Understanding the Parrot in the Oven Themes

written by: Pam Cannon • edited by: Kellie Hayden • updated: 1/4/2012

Do you need help making wise choices? What influences decision making? Follow Manny and his journey through some difficult events and choices in his fourteenth year. Discover how humor and tragedy can be used in juxtaposition to create a mood.

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    Making a Plan

    To begin to understand the Parrot in the Oven themes and twists you need to make a plan. You cannot tackle everything, so you must choose one theme and explore it thoroughly.

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    The Juxtaposition of Tragedy and Comedy

    The dictionary definition of tragedy is "Drama in prose or verse of elevated theme and diction and with unhappy ending." The dictionary definition of comedy is "Light, amusing and often satirical character, chiefly representing everyday life and with happy ending." Victor Martinez uses both of these strategies together in events throughout the book.( Dictionary:The Oxford Concise Dictionary.Oxford University Press.Fourth Edition)

    Examine the mood that is set in the following events, and detail the tragedy and comedy in each instance. Tell how it makes the event more poignant or depressing. Does it lift the mood? Is it an effective tool?

    1) Page 57.Page 58. Dad is looking for the bullets and Pedi is helping to retrieve them.

    2) Page 62. The policeman's flashlight lights up the picture of the Last Supper.

    3) Page 71. Mom is preparing for Dad's homecoming.

    4) Pages 85 to 89 Grandma's funeral.

    5) Pages119 to 139. The training for the fight and the fight.

    6) Page 145. The descriptions and events in the waiting room of the hospital.

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    Manny's Choices

    Parrot in the Oven themes include gang related activities. The vignettes written by Victor Martinez demonstrate this activity in vivid descriptions.

    In order to understand why Manny had to make difficult choices it is important to recognize how prevalent gangs were. Why do you think it was important in Manny's life to want to join a gang? Do you think that the same pressures are there today? In your experience what pressures are there to do similar things in order to fit in?

    What is Manny's attitude towards work? Did this help or hinder his choices?

    In Chapter 7 do you think that Lencho's boxing team was a kind of gang? Why or why not? Did it have merit?

    How did things change for Manny over the year? Was it one incident or a combination of things that influenced him? Do you admire the way Manny came through his fourteenth year? Why or why not?

    Pretend that you are a newspaper reporter, and you are interviewing Manny about a "Year in His Life." Write a series of questions that would gain insight into the things that are important to him and how certain people and incidents affected his decisions. Ask him if he is pleased with the way everything has turned out. Are there things that he would have changed?

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    Racism

    In the book there is tension between the Latino characters and the white characters. Do you think that there is any improvement in their understanding of each other by the end of the book? Why or why not?

    How does this compare with attitudes in your own environment?

    Do you think that racism is learned? What do you think is the one thing that would help to eradicate racism? Is this possible or is this a pipe dream? What do you do personally to understand other races?

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