Into the Beautiful North

by

Luis Alberto Urrea

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Into the Beautiful North: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Long ago, Chava was Irma's bowling guru. He also introduced her to the cinema. Though Irma never cared much for movies or music, she was jealous watching Chava take girls to the movies. He was extremely handsome, which he played up by buying nice clothing with his bowling winnings. Irma, on the other hand, felt fat and awkward. She sat in the back of the theater and watched Chava with his dates, knowing that he would kiss them after the movie.
Irma feels an overwhelming sense of jealousy and competitiveness when she sees Chava romantically linked to another girl (or girls). This foreshadows the way that Nayeli will harbor similar feelings of jealousy and competitiveness when she sees Matt with Yolo.
Themes
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Things came to a head at the state bowling finals. Chava lost early on to an upstart, so he sat and watched Irma bowl. Irma felt him staring at her backside, and the tension helped her throw strike after strike. Later, they had sex in Chava's car, which was Irma's first and only sexual experience. She didn't enjoy it much, but she never forgot how Chava blotted her thighs with a silk hankie, or how the moon looked hazy.
Irma's relatively unhappy first sexual experience suggests that she idealized her passion for Chava. This offers a situation in which romance was desired but was unsatisfying in practice—an experience that likely adds more clout to Irma's earlier counsel for Nayeli to not sleep with Matt.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Chava was a fisherman by day and surprised all of Tres Camarones by going to Tijuana to fish in 1963—but unlike everyone else, he didn't come back. He wrote home saying that he was winning bowling tournaments in America, and finally, in 1965, Irma went to America to bowl with him. Though Irma expected a wedding, Chava only kissed her on the cheek when he put her on the plane home. Later, Irma learned that Chava was expecting a baby with an American woman. On that day, Irma became La Osa.
The narrator connects Irma's transformation into La Osa to her heartbreak over Chava’s betrayal, suggesting that intense female power is often borne out of disillusionment and disloyalty. Irma’s falling out with Chava ultimately made her stronger, begging the question as to if the same thing will happen to Nayeli as she pines over and idealizes Matt.
Themes
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Male vs. Female Heroism Theme Icon
Female Friendship vs. Romance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
In the present, Matt drives Yolo, Nayeli, and Atómiko to the Hillcrest bowling alley. Nayeli takes Matt's arm as they walk in and ask for Chava. The man at the front desk calls to a man named Sal and asks if he knows anyone named Chávez. Sal has just finished cleaning a restroom, and he looks at Nayeli with a frozen smile. Sal is Chava.
The way that the man at the front desk speaks implies that he doesn't know much Spanish and isn't very interested in saying names correctly, which is another example of latent, underhanded racism.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
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Yolo and Matt bowl while Atómiko insults them, and Nayeli and Chava talk. He tells her how he betrayed Irma. Nayeli explains that Irma never married and is now mayor and asks what happened to his wife. Tears roll down Chava's cheeks as he admits that the woman ran off with a sailor before the baby was born. He admits that he was too ashamed to come home. Nayeli takes his hands and tells him her story.
Chava's story shows that he was disillusioned with the life he found in the United States. Chava’s unwillingness to come home to Tres Camarones suggests that his idealism was also tied up with pride.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon
Nayeli convinces Chava that Tres Camarones will be thrilled to have him back, and he agrees to join the girls on their mission. When Nayeli, Yolo, Atómiko, and Matt get back to the duplex, Vampi and Carla are grilling, and El Brujo is engaged in a game of Guitar Hero with the neighbor. Yolo tells Vampi they have one man, and Vampi smiles, looks towards El Brujo, and says they have two.
It is possible that Chava’s overwhelming disappointment with the United States has caused him to idealize Tres Camarones. Although this is beneficial for the girls’ mission to repopulate their village with men, it may mean that Chava will be disappointed with Tres Camarones after idealizing it for so long.
Themes
Borders and Ownership Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Idealization Theme Icon