THE GUARDIANS BY ANA CASTILLO
The Guardians By Ana Castillo YourFirstName YourLastName University title
The Guardians is a novel that provides contrasting images even within the family. Gabo and Regina are representatives of different generations and have diverse life experiences. The fact is that life in a border city forces both characters to assimilate. Nevertheless, the boy was severely injured due to the loss of his father and has signs of psychological trauma, while the woman uses her life experience and a persistent character to survive. All this points to opposing images that should optimize efforts to search for Rafa. Castillo uses religious, social, and political themes to describe their personalities. Gabo considers religion as the primary purpose in life and a way to escape from reality, which provides a constant threat. Besides, the author used the image of Jesse as a comparison of Gabo’s values and views, although a more detailed analysis of the characters shows their similarity. Thus, the contrasting images of Gabo and Regina prove the difficulty of living in the border territory, and the constant presence of danger and crime hide the exact similarity of the characters.
Rafa is a teenager who is going through a challenging period of development. The boy’s childhood passed on the US-Mexican border, and, as a result, many life processes were associated with a neighboring country. The horrific event happened shortly before the period described in the book: Gabo’s mother was killed while trying to cross the border illegally, and criminals cut the woman’s organs for sale. Although it was not indicated in the short story, Gabo had a hard time surviving this event, which negatively affected the boy’s psychological health. It is essential to mention that a teenager goes through stages of mental and physical development, which are extremely unstable and sensitive to unexpected events. In other words, the death of the mother and the sudden disappearance of the father violated the moral well-being of Gabo, who was forced to seek support in the environment. The insufficient level of closeness with an aunt and difficulties in adaptation in American society makes Gabo seek help in stabilizing the moral state of religion and, paradoxically, crime. Since the border area is notorious because of the high crime rate, it dramatically affects the well-being and pace of life of residents.
Thus, the Gabo’s three main objects of interaction can be distinguished: Regina as a family member and a temporary guardian, religion as a support tool, and a criminal gang as a possible assistant in finding a father. Regina is the exact opposite of Gabo. The 50-year-old virgin widow has experience in family life and takes care of Gabo while Rafa infrequently arrives at work. The most powerful element in influencing a woman’s personality was youth, in which Regina worked hard and tried her best to improve individual life by moving to the USA. Castillo indicated that Rafa and Regina worked together in the fields and tried to make ends meet until the woman married the American military. It is worth noting that a legal marriage determined the whole future fate of Regina, as the woman got the opportunity to legally live in the country, get a job, and access to improved living conditions. Nevertheless, the husband’s death and difficulties in assimilation worsened the woman’s quality of life, but at the same time, tempered her nature. The character image in the book is described as independent, self-sufficient, and secure. On the other hand, the woman has constant problems with Gabo, as the boy is troublesome at the death of the mother and the loss of the father. The problem is that the aunt has a problematic role as a guardian, not giving enough attention to her nephew and feeling helpless.
On the one hand, the combination of independence and helplessness makes Regina have difficulty expressing love to her nephew, who needs it most at the moment. Gabo, on the other hand, finds support in the religion and criminal gang that benefits from such an attitude of people. One can conclude that Regina is the opposite person in comparison with Gabo since a woman does not need external support and can assess her position in society without the influence of secondary factors. The triangle between Gabo, Regina, and the church is full of emotions and anxiety. Castillo repeatedly mentions that the aunt is extremely negative about the church, as it violates the critical thinking of the nephew. In a sense, Regina’s primary goal as a guardian is to protect Gabo from the negative influence of pastors and the deity as a whole. In turn, the boy’s connection with the criminal gang to search for Rafa is stigmatized in society. The undeveloped psychological system of Gabo becomes a problem in this case since the character feels pressure and guilt. The church has become a support tool for the boy, and Gabo is increasingly integrating the deity into his healthy life. Regina watches it as an extremely harmful process and accuses Father Juan Bosco of Gabo having become more and more pious and not paying attention to the outside world.
The problem is that Gabo falls into a vicious circle because the lie of the church makes the boy make contact with crime. At the same time, constant acts of violence in the borderland force Gabo to seek support in the deity and the church as a whole. Regina notices this fact and makes efforts to protect Gabo from the influence of both. Thus, the significant difference between Gabo and Regina is critical and sober thinking about the Catholic Church and the local criminal gang. The proximity of crime affects residents of the border city. The fact is that the traffic of weapons, human organs, and illegal migrants across the border is an obstacle to the normal rhythm of life of residents. In a sense, crime sets the tone for social life, firmly rooted in people’s habits, values, and worldview. The disappearance of Rafa showed that local gangs not only affect the financial and political situation of the city but can also disrupt the normal rhythm of a person’s individual life. In other words, criminals control the private space of city dwellers by integrating illegal actions into their daily routine. Since the border city provides residents with a harmful environment in which having a full-fledged family is a difficult task, people are forced to look for sources of love in their external environment.
Castillo showed this fact as one of the defining in Gabo’s search for support. The boy, despite a commitment to religion and moral conduct, turned to a local gang for help for several reasons. First, Jesse, a gang member, promised to explain Rafa’s current location in exchange for a pair of new sneakers. Secondly, the gang provides a formal sense of family, as its members support each other and create a closed society. Since residents of the border city suffer from the difficulty of building family relationships, the choice of many of them is to become part of the criminal world, which provides a specific sense of family. Consequently, Gabo began to be friends with Jesse, who turned out to be the boy’s most challenging life puzzle. Jesse is the opposite of Gabo at first glance. The boy was a symbol of crime, greed, and composure, which look contrasted against the background of Gabo. The exchange of vital information about the whereabouts of Rafa for a pair of sneakers is a symbol of the actual values of not only Jesse but also the border territory as a whole. The problem is that universal values fade against the backdrop of total crime.
Thus, what is valuable to an ordinary person may not matter in the location of The Guardians. Jesse, at first glance, does not look like Gabo, but it is deceptive. As mentioned earlier, the principal value of city residents is a strong interpersonal relationship and sincere family love. Castillo does not discuss Jesse’s past, but the boy’s behavior shows a lack of these aspects of life. The gang gave this character a sense of family warmth, care, and love, although this was all a cover for action in favor of crime. In other words, the leaders of the gang gave the members a sense of unity so that they would do the work to enrich them and develop illegal traffic across the border. In this context, Jesse and Gabo are identical characters in terms of experience. Gabo began to devote more time to religion, prayer, and the search for the meaning of life, while Jesse initiated radically different actions. It can be argued that Gabo evaluated Jesse as a sinner who has strayed from the righteous path and that this character is his main task in life. In fact, Gabo dreamed of changing Jesse and instilling an angelic spirit in a friend.
The Guardians is a novel that intertwines opposing images that are revealed only when interacting with each other. Gabo is a devout and weak-minded teenager with an exceptional mental organization. The death of the mother and the sudden disappearance of the father negatively affect the psychological well-being of the boy, which forces Gabo to contact the criminal gang and then devote most of the time to the church. In turn, Regina is the guardian of the teenager and in every possible way, protects Gabo from both spheres of influence. The woman is an independent and self-sufficient resident of the border city and has learned to cope with the constant pressure and danger of this territory. Despite the status of an aunt and nephew, these characters are opposites both in the system of values and in personal characteristics. Jesse is a member of a criminal group and, at first glance, is fundamentally different from Gabo. The cruelty and composure of Jesse were inspired by the desire to receive family support and love, which was the rule in the gang. It is this fact that makes it clear that Jesse and Gabo are actually similar in values, but each achieves goals differently. One can conclude that the exact characteristics of the characters are deceptive at first glance, and the author lays a deeper meaning in the description of each of them.
Castillo, A. (2007). The Guardians. New York: Random House.