Victor Martinez’s “Parrot in the Oven” is a novel that reflects the protagonist’s school days, his athletic activities, and family life. Victor Martinez experiences, as a Mexican-American, are the influences that induce him to produce such a literary work with figurative language that he receives naturally from his family. In his life, Martinez’s high school days and his teachers take an important role as they motivate his to find opportunities that he can get as a son of a migrant worker. He presents his feeling and emotion for finding his identity in the novel. As “Parrot in the Oven” is a coming-of-age story of a boy, the high school days and family life of the protagonist is explicitly presented. Everyone has unforgettable school days that made a great impact on the mind of the person. I can never forget about my school days and the sports activities I have participated, got the victory, and met failures. I have learnt not only education, but also life, as does the protagonist of the novel. I would like to describe the high school days, athletic contests, and family matters of the protagonist, Manny Hernandez that is concentrated mostly on the chapters 7 and 8 of the “Parrot in the Oven.”
The chapter, “The Boxing Match,” is depicted in a way that gives an illusion watching a boxing match. The athletic activities take the most prominent part in the high school boys, as they feel it helps them to win the respect from people, especially from girls. Lencho is a very confident and charismatic in training and recruiting boy for his boxing team. Lencho recruits Manny and his friend Albert for his boxing team, but Manny for helping out with the equipment. His gang feels as if they can win the whites and gets more confident that they are very strong and talented than “gavacho,” the term Mexican American used to refer white people. However, their confidence vanishes when they meet the boxing match. When the match fever is at its height, Manny does everything seriously with his assistants as if he is doing some scientific research. Albert loses in the very first match that reduces the spirit of Lencho’s team, and Manny starts losing hope. Team loses its confidence when Lencho and Chico lose. Thus, boxing gives a greater confidence and hope in the minds of the Mexican American who felt depressed so far. Manny feels disappointed with the Lencho’s performance and seems discouraged. This incident makes him realize that he has given much importance to boxing rather than other duties. Mexican Americans’ try to prove that they are tougher and stronger has gone in vain, as they fail to intimidate and impress others by losing the match. Victory and lose are common factors in the sports, but it is something more in the case of the Mexicans because they feel this event as a tool for them to prove themselves before white people who neglect them.
Victor Martinez discusses much about the family circumstance of the Mexican American boy, Manny, to present the familial pattern of the migrant and their struggle. Manny’s father is a drunkard and has no care for his family, but he loves his family. When Manny’s sister, Magna, becomes pregnant and gives birth to a premature baby, his father shows much care for her that shows he has realized the fact that he has to adapt to the surroundings instead of struggling against it. Magna is the only person who brings money to the family unlike her father and brother and helps her mother to run her family. Manny mother feels very bad when she gets embarrassed in the hospital. She feels that this ill-treatment happens to her not only because of discrimination, but also because of her husband’s disregard. Thus, Martinez shows the family condition a Mexican American boy who faces disgrace in school and unstable family.
As “Parrot in the Oven” is a coming-of –age story of a Mexican American boy, Martinez has clearly depicted the mental as well as the physical condition of Manny by presenting his high school day where he gets all his lessons on life rather than education. The struggle and longing of a migrant to find the identity as a student, worker, and even human are evidently described the author, as he himself is a Mexican American. The pain of losing in a match that is considered as an only hope for the migrants to exhibit themselves as equally qualified like white people. Inequality, racial discrimination, and poverty take a major part in the life of Manny even in his very young age that makes him feel depressed and worried about his future and identity. His intention to defeat whites and join the gang does not help him to find the identity; instead, it draws him in a different path in which he can never fit. “Parrot in the Oven” vividly portrays the migrant’s life and struggle for finding roots to withstand in the land in which they were aliens.