When Ms. Gruwell compares the Capulets and the Montagues in Romeo and Juliet to the Asian and Latino gangs her students know, this student loudly expresses her/his opinion that the family feud in Romeo and Juliet is stupid. When Ms. Gruwell names the Long Beach gangs, the student is taken aback, since s/he believed that Ms. Gruwell would know nothing about gang life.
By making her students read about literary situations similar to their own, Ms. Gruwell forces her students to see their own reality from a distance and reflect critically on its dynamics. At the same time, Ms. Gruwell aims to show the class that she takes their reality seriously and is willing to educate herself about it.
Ms. Gruwell then proceeds to ask the student if s/he believes that the Asian-Latino rivalry is stupid, too. S/he reacts by saying that it is an entirely different situation than that found in Shakespeare and expresses her/his frustration at Ms. Gruwell’s stubborn effort to question everything. However, as the student thinks about it, s/he realizes that the rivalry between Latinos and Asians is indeed pointless, since s/he doesn’t even remember how it all started. Nevertheless, s/he concludes that, even if the gang war only depends on tradition, people should still stick to their own sides. S/he feels that, however stupid the reasons for their fighting might be, there is nothing s/he can do to change it.
The student’s reaction to Ms. Gruwell’s questioning is defensive, as s/he refuses to believe that the forces that drive her/his life are absurd. The student concludes that one should still abide by the rules of gang violence—probably because going against these rules can get her/him killed. Students’ lack of trust in their own potential to affect history will change over the months, as they learn more about individuals who fought for what was morally right.