At the beginning of the novel, Estrella and her family make their temporary home in an abandoned bungalow which is situated next to a large and empty barn. Estrella and her siblings are both intrigued and frightened by it, and Perfecto brusquely warns them to stay away from the unstable structure. However, Estrella frequently returns to the barn when she needs to be alone. After Alejo first kisses her hand she retreats to the barn to contemplate this new development; when she’s frustrated with the disastrous visit to the medical clinic, she wishes desperately that she could return to the barn and cry. In this sense, the barn represents the importance of Estrella’s inner life and the need to carve out some solitude in the midst of her crowded life.
At the same time, the barn is under threat from Perfecto, who wants to tear it down and sell the materials. When he first mentions this plan Estrella explicitly identifies herself with the barn, saying that she is being used up and torn down just like it is. The constant threat of demolition demonstrates the extent to which Estrella’s inner life and independent identity are constantly assailed by her harsh work and her obligations to her family.
After dropping Alejo off at the hospital, Estrella runs into the barn and climbs up to the trap door leading onto the roof. There, she contemplates the fact that even though she’s done everything in her power to save her friend, she may never see him again. The novel ends on her hope that her heart is “powerful enough to summon home all those who strayed.” This is partly an affirmation of Estrella’s sense of individuality and personal identity, which has always felt strongest in the barn. However, since at this point she has exhausted all possibility of action and can do nothing but hope, it also represents Estrella’s limited individual ability to effect change in the world around her.
The Barn Quotes in Under the Feet of Jesus
The silence and the barn and the clouds meant many things. It was always a question of work, and work depended on the harvest, the car running, their health, the conditions of the road, how long the money held out, and the weather, which meant they could depend on nothing.
But the tire resisted, Alejo’s body resisted, and she did not want to think what she was thinking now: God was mean and did not care and she was alone to fend for herself…All she wanted was to find a deep, dark quiet space like the barn to cry. That was due her. She deserved it.
Estrella remained as immobile as an angel standing on the verge of faith. Like the chiming bells of the great cathedrals, she believed her heart powerful enough to summon home all those who strayed.