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This thesis is a literary, cultural, and theoretical analysis of Sandra Cisneros’s novel Caramelo. Caramelo traces the coming-of-age of its young protagonist, Celaya. Through this character, Cisneros reveals the impact of living between cultures. Born of a Mexican immigrant father and a working-class Mexican American mother, Celaya finds herself asked to choose sides. Celaya’s grandmother, Soledad, is the central secondary character on whom all others react. She embodies the effects of colonialism on this family. Through Soledad’s struggles, readers come to see the psychological damage caused by power relationships that privilege part of the self over the whole. In combination with the other characters, readers see how all marginalized peoples share these traumas, giving Caramelo a universal reach.
The work of Chicana critical theorists Gloria Anzaldúa, Emma Pérez, Chela Sandoval, and Edén Torres illustrate the growth of Chicana Feminism in relation to the novel. They speak to how power relationships have evolved over time and how these relationships translate through the body depending on class, race, and gender. In this thesis, German philosopher Hegel also aids in tracing how Western perceptions of the body developed. Cisneros constructs Soledad as a victim of these perceptions and simultaneously chronicles how Celaya begins the process of breaking them apart. Through Celaya, Cisneros illustrates the many journeys an individual can take in examining and deconstructing power relationships and, thus, take vital steps towards healing.