“Cariboo Cafe” Levels of Delusion

The Cariboo Café, by Helena Marina Viramontes, tells a story about a unique small town through symbolism and the switching between multiple different perspectives. One of the defining characteristics of the story is the three different narrators. The part of the story that intrigued me the most was the structure. The fiction starts out in the perspective of Sonya who is locked out of her house with her little brother. Since Sonya is from an immigrant family she is told that she has to live under the radar and that her only safe space is her house. While she is drifting off into her thoughts, her brother is brought up. Sonya’s life has pretty much revolved around her little brother Macky. This little boy is her world and she realizes she needs to protect him. At this point in the story Macky didn’t seem very important but over time, he becomes the symbol that I am talking about.

Soon after the mention of Macky the perspective shifts to a cook who owns the Cariboo Café. The story dives deep into his background and how he lost his son Jojo. One night an old woman comes in with two kids who we later find out are Sonya and Macky. When the diner owner first meets them he has an instant connection with Macky. The reason he likes him so much is because he reminds him of his son Jojo. He favors Macky and treats him like a son. It’s almost like he sees Macky as Jojo for the few moments they’re in the diner together. The final perspective is the old woman who lost her son Geraldo, who was the same age as Macky. The old woman became really sad when her son was gone. Eventually that sadness turned into a mental issue. She started to believe she could get her son back (who was most likely dead). This all escalated to the actual kidnapping of Macky and Sonya. She placed Geraldo’s identity onto Macky and fully believed it was him. She also became really paranoid because the police were looking for the missing kids or her “Geraldo”. Since she knew what the police did to her Geraldo the first time, she had every right to be scared about them taking “her little boy”.

I view this story as the progression in delusion of the three people. The story starts out with Sonya who is Macky’s sister and ends with a woman who believes Macky is her son. It tells the same story through the eyes of three different people with three different levels of sanity. The order of the perspectives and delusion also show how pain can affect people. The amount of misery that the treatment of immigrants has caused on both Sonya’s family and the old woman is very clear in the story. The delusion is somewhat representative of what these immigrants have to go through. Sonya is very young so there hasn’t been much time for the pain to affect her; but the old woman has seen everything and has completely lost it. The amount of agony she has faced causes her to take another kid to make her feel okay again.

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