Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Yolo, Vampi, and Nayeli are lucky to discover that the Jack in the Box is staffed by undocumented Mexicans and one Guatemalan. They exchange pesos for dollars, and Nayeli buys everyone food. The girls order tacos while Atómiko orders burgers and pie.
The fact that the employees will exchange dollars for pesos suggests that there's a sort of immigrants' community in the US out of necessity.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
The narrator introduces Ma Johnston, Matt's mother. She lives in a duplex, and after leaving her garbage cans out for several days, Ma Johnston's neighbor, Carla, knocks on Ma's door. Carla finds Ma dead on the floor. In the present, several weeks later, Matt is still at Ma Johnston's house. He spent a few nights with Carla, even though he doesn't have feelings for her, and scattered his mother's ashes in the ocean. He finds the duplex depressing, as all he does is drink beer and watch TV. Matt feels trapped and is shocked to receive a phone call from Nayeli.
The interconnected relationships between Matt, his mother, and Carla point to a relatively strong sense of community within Ma Johnston's neighborhood. Notably, this sense of community isn't really affected one way or the other when Matt and Carla have sex, which suggests that there aren't heightened emotions surrounding their sexual relationship. This will be an important comparison later.
Themes
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Matt pulls into the Jack in the Box parking lot in Ma Johnston's minivan. Nayeli, Yolo, and Vampi rush to him and hug him, and Matt is delighted to see the girls. They look like women now, not the teenagers they were when he last saw them. He doesn't like the look of Atómiko but allows him to come back to the duplex too.
Thinking the girls look like women now indicates that there will be sexual tension within the group, and further, that it will be Matt's perceptions and whims that will create that tension.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Matt is prepared to apologize for Ma Johnston's home, but Atómiko whistles and the girls declare the place a palace. Atómiko makes himself at home by turning on the TV and asking Vampi to get him a beer, and Matt offers the girls a shower. When Vampi asks to take a bubble bath, he fetches bubbles from Carla. Later, he watches the girls watch MTV.
The group’s reaction to the sad duplex only reinforces their sense that America is an amazing place, especially since Matt's shame surrounding the state of the duplex suggests that it's not a particularly extravagant place.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
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