Water by the Spoonful

by

Quiara Alegría Hughes

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Water by the Spoonful: Scene Five Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Yaz sits in a flower shop reading brochures. Elliot arrives, his limp even more pronounced. Elliot tells her that he blew off some steam at a boxing gym before showing up. When Yaz asks if Odessa has called him yet, Elliot answers that she keeps herself shut away from the rest of the world. Yaz talks about the funeral preparations, the relatives arriving from Puerto Rico, and the family fighting over Mami Ginny’s possessions. To avoid it, Elliot suggests they just spend all day at the flower shop instead.
Odessa hiding herself from the world and even Elliot, who is her biological son, again nods to the theme of human connection and the disparity between internet relationships and real-world relationships. Although Odessa cares for her forum community as Haikumom, she neglects the rest of the world—even her own family.
Themes
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Together they deliberate on which floral arrangement to buy for the funeral, hoping for something that looks like Mami Ginny’s garden. Elliot refuses to have anything with carnations since it makes them look poor. Although Yaz has already found the perfect piece, she tries to hide it from Elliot since it is much more expensive. As they look at it, both Yaz and Elliot feel guilty that they did not take care of Mami Ginny’s garden, though Elliot was already serving as Ginny’s caretaker before she died.
Elliot is once again plagued by guilt and shame over being poor. Although Elliot’s guilt is never substantively dealt with in the play, his shame over his own poverty informs the audience of the world that Yaz left behind when she became a successful musician and teacher. The guilt that Yaz carries over having left the barrio behind begins to show itself as well, hinting at her conflict of identity.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Elliot wants Yaz to conduct the funeral, since she speaks publicly all the time as a teacher. Yaz remarks that she only has to talk about ideas as a teacher, which is easier, and comments that, “Ideas don’t fill the void, they just help you articulate it.” Elliot remarks that she is the new “elder” of the family now that Mami Ginny is gone, a thought which unnerves Yaz since she is only twenty-nine.
Yaz’s wish to accompany Elliot to Puerto Rico to lay Mami Ginny to rest—and thus briefly leave her sophisticated Ivy League life—indicates that she is beginning to lean into her Puerto Rican identity once again and perhaps consider a role as the new head of the extended family.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Yaz agrees to conduct the service, so long as Elliot will call her ex-husband and tell him not to come to the funeral, since in her eyes he’s lost the right to be involved with their family. She reflects that William has been to four of their family’s funerals and that she thinks he secretly saw her family as freaks for their odd Puerto Rican traditions, and she wonders if she also began to see her family that way. Elliot intentionally cuts her off from this line of thought, though, and Yaz tells him that she wants to go to Puerto Rico with Elliot to spread Mami Ginny’s ashes.
This scene is the strongest portrayal of Yaz’s conflict of identity—her dissonance—and the pain and shame that it causes her. The admission that she found herself embarrassed and ashamed of her Puerto Rican heritage, makes her position as the new elder of the family an even greater burden.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Yaz and Elliot sit in the flower shop, wondering how they will pay for the arrangement and watching the florist do his work. Yaz comments, “What do you think it’s like to be him? To be normal?” Although Elliot doubts that anyone is normal, Yaz guesses that his family rarely has funerals and that he’s never watched his young cousins be arrested or seen children drinking rum. She recounts the day she realized her adult cousin, who graduated high school, doesn’t even know how to read.
Like the forum members, Yaz and Elliot primarily wish for normal lives, rather than reaching for any grand dreams. Yaz’s recollection of childhood tragedies and traumas indicates that their early lives were painful, surrounded by crime and poverty. This helps to depict, however briefly, the world that she escaped when she left the barrio and built a new life for herself.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Yaz feels guilty about this, since she has college degrees and a seventeen-thousand-dollar piano with a mortgage on it. While she was married to William, he would tell her that every time she came back from visiting her family in the barrio, she seemed different. In contrast, “his family has Quaker Oats for DNA. They play Pictionary on New Year’s.”
Once again, Yaz’s material success creates a marked contrast to the poverty she has just described. While Yaz’s Puerto Rican family is chaotic, William’s family—and thus the life she led as an adult—is bland and wholesome, even boring.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
At the time, her relationship with William and his family made Yaz wish that she could get rid of all her Puerto Rican blood. But now, she wishes she’d never been given the prep-school scholarship and left the barrio. Although Elliot thinks it is better that she left, she worries that now that Mami Ginny is gone, no one will be there to hold the extended family together. Elliot is not sure what he will do now, but disingenuously poses the possibility of moving to Los Angeles to be an actor. Yaz surmises that she might just come with him and leave Philadelphia behind. They order their flowers from the florist.
Elliot’s lightly-held aspirations to be an actor in California sets him on an inverse character arc to Yaz’s: where Yaz is moving from freedom and dissonance back to embracing who she is and living in the barrio, Elliot is preparing to take his first steps from the barrio towards freedom. This inverse character arc suggests that the pursuit of freedom for oneself is not inherently wrong and is sometimes necessary to break free of the past. But, as Yaz discovers, it is just as often unfulfilling.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon