Volar is an essay by Judith Ortiz Cofer that was published in 1992. In it, she recounts her coming of age as a Puerto Rican woman living in Paterson, New Jersey. She explores the concept of “volar” which means to fly, and how this concept has shaped her own experiences growing up.
The essay is divided into four main parts: Growing Up in Paterson; Learning to Fly; Homecoming; and Taking Flight. In each section, Ortiz Cofer reflects various aspects of her life that have enabled her to become who she is today—a successful writer and artist with a strong sense of identity.
By exploring the complexities of race, class and gender roles within communities like Paterson, Ortiz Cofer reveals how those forces shape our lives and create obstacles for us to overcome but also provide opportunities for growth.
Through vivid personal anecdotes about friends impacted by poverty or racial bias, we gain insight into what it means to live at the intersection between multiple cultures. Ultimately, Volar by Judith Ortiz Cofer serves as both an exploration of identity formation and a reminder that even when faced with adversity one can still find ways to take flight—whether through education or simply finding joy in everyday moments amidst chaos.
A great example of this is the combination of her Puerto Rican and American cultures. Cofer often writes about bridging these two distinct worlds, something she experienced firsthand in her life. This duality that Judith Ortiz Cofer experienced can be seen through many aspects of her work, especially in the way she uses language to form connections between cultures.
She often utilizes English words within a Spanish phrase or vice versa as a way to combine both languages into one literary piece (Pagán, 2). By doing this, she breathes life into her poems by combining not only different cultural perspectives but also different languages.
The symbolism of the main character’s bedroom serves as evidence to her plight. She is surrounded by objects that are commonplace in a pre-teen girl’s life, such as posters of super heroes and stuffed animals. Yet these items also represent restrictions and lack of freedom which she feels through her environment. This imagery conveys her anxiety over growing up too fast and being exposed to adult concepts before she is emotionally prepared for them.
In addition, Cofer uses symbols to show how the media has an influence on young girls’ self-image such as their body image and expectations for beauty standards. The unfulfilled desire for acceptance from parents and peers so heavily influences the protagonist’s feelings about herself that it hinders any chance she would have at expressing joy or feeling free like those portrayed in her beloved comic books.
The dream of flight serves as a metaphor for the girl’s desire to escape from her current circumstances, where she feels powerless and is surrounded by poverty. The other reference occurs when the girl finds solace in an old tree outside her apartment window. She describes it as “a miracle…like having wings” (Cofer 205). This image of flight carries with it a sense of joy and peace that gives her hope for better things to come.
Symbolically, this tree serves not only as a source of refuge but also provides comfort in times of distress. Through these references we can further appreciate the symbolism present within “Volar” and how Cofer uses them to illustrate her character’s hopes and dreams.
The young girl’s longing to escape is further illustrated when she visits the local carnival. The lights and music of the carnival captivate her, with its promise of a different life: “and when I looked inside I saw a world so beautiful that it made me believe in something more than our dismal alley…” (Cofer 206).
Here, again we see how this attraction reflects the want to leave their current lives behind as they search for something brighter and better. Additionally, it also serves as an escapist fantasy from their everyday worries and struggles by offering them temporary relief from reality.
The girl’s dream in the Volar Judith Ortiz Cofer speaks to the power of storytelling and how it can affect our perceptions of ourselves. The young girl has seen a character that she identifies with, and her dreams are a reflection of her own desire to be strong and powerful.
Through dreaming, she is able to explore what it means for her personally to be beautiful and strong in a society that often values traits contrary to those desired by this young person. By dreaming about being like the superhero, she is able to imagine herself as someone worthy of love and respect – something that may have seemed impossible before.
The author emphasizes the idea of escape through the imagery of flight and freedom. The bird that appears in “Volar” is used to symbolize hope, dreams, and a way out of an oppressive reality. This image furthers this story’s theme as it gives the girl a sense of possibility even though she lacks self-confidence due to her physical appearance.
Furthermore, Cofer highlights how poverty can stifle ambition by showing how the main character’s mother is unable to help her daughter achieve her dreams because they lack resources.
However, despite all these challenges, there remains hope for the young protagonist in “Volar” as she discovers that anyone can be their own superhero regardless of society or their circumstances. She learns that no matter what obstacles stand in one’s path, it is possible to create your own destiny with courage and determination.
Through this tale of triumph over adversity and dreaming big against all odds, Ortiz Cofer shows us that anything is possible if we just believe in ourselves enough to try.
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