Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
This man is the warrior Atómiko. He's the "master of the dompe," with baggy pants, a sleeveless white undershirt, and exposed tattoos. He carries a samurai staff made out of a massive length of bamboo, with a gearshift stuck in one end wrapped in copper wire. Though every garbage picker needs a staff of some sort, Atómiko's is bigger and more lethal than anyone else's. He catcalls Nayeli, and she waves a hand and walks off.
When comparing Atómiko and Nayeli, it's worth noting that both believe themselves to be the hero other people need—though Atómiko's power and strength comes in part from carrying a weapon, while Nayeli needs only her karate training. This continues the motif of men needing guns or other weapons to be powerful, situating female power as something natural and inherent, not something that comes from association with powerful objects.
Themes
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Atómiko introduces himself, but Nayeli continues to brush him off and walk further away. The narrator explains that Atómiko is prone to grand visions and is in desperate need of a quest, hence his pestering of Nayeli. She finally explains that she and her friends came from a place under threat to find soldiers, and Atómiko declares that he was a sergeant in the Mexican Army until he ran away. Nayeli shakes her head and walks away from him. As she does, two "ice zombies" (dump dwellers who are addicted to meth) decide to jump her and steal her shoes.
Now that Nayeli is somewhat disillusioned with her quest, it's telling that she finds Atómiko's idealization of himself so frustrating and silly. It shows that Nayeli is growing up and becoming more aware of how the world works in reality and is beginning to abandon her own grand visions. Meanwhile, the presence of the “ice zombies” shows that not everyone at the dump are as pure and kind as Araceli and Porfirio.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
The zombies put out their hands to block Nayeli, and one asks her for a kiss. Out of nowhere, Atómiko's staff comes down on the man's head. The other zombie watches as if hypnotized before Atómiko uses it to smash his shoulders and head. As she watches, Nayeli notes that Atómiko feels the need to announce his name constantly. When Atómiko is finished with the zombies, he introduces himself again.
By constantly stating his name, Atómiko insists that others pay attention to him and think of him as a real person with a name—not just another anonymous dump dweller.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Atómiko follows Nayeli to a small bodega, where she calls Irma. Irma doesn't pick up, and Nayeli almost cries. Atómiko then follows her back to Porfirio and Araceli's, where he decides that he and Tacho are great friends. Though Nayeli insists she doesn't need anyone to save her, Atómiko insists that doing so is his duty.
Nayeli's discomfort at Atómiko's advances are understandable given how many men thus far have given Nayeli ill-intentioned, unsolicited attention.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
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