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Aristotle and Dante
Terms in this set (25)
Aristotle "Ari" Mendoza
One of two main characters in the novel. He is 15, bored, lonely and friendless. Has a loving family but they aren't very connected. Wants to know about his brother in prison. Wants to find his place in the world, questions his sexuality. Breaks his legs and an arm in an accident and refuses to accept his love of Dante.
He knows that he is gay. He does not deny his love for Ari. He is confident and talented. He is a good swimmer and teaches Ari how to swim, but he is also interested in art and literature. He is popular and his family is very open and loving. He does not want to let them down because of his sexuality.
He is Ari's brother who is in prison for murder. His absence is felt by his brother who is very inquisitive about him. He is violent and killed a transvestite with his hands.
Dante's first boyfriend. Met at a pharmacy they both worked at. In an alley Dante is beat up for his sexual orientation and Daniel run away. Ari is upset because he doesn't seem committed to Dante. Daniel distracts Dante's love of Ari.
Aris mom. Loves her son but doesn't want him to become like his brother. She isn't very open about her feelings. When Bernardo was on trial she had a mental break down and couldn't care for Ari. Only way for family to move forward is to talk about feelings. She stood by her sister when no one else in the family would. She was accepting of her sons love of Dante.
Ari's father. He is very remote and doesn't talk about his experiences in the Vietnam war. He is supportive of Aunt Ophelia and of his son's feelings for Dante.
Is Dante's mother. First person other than Dante to realize his affection for Ari. Does her best to encourage it and reaches out to Mendoza's to become more connected. Talks with Mrs. Mendoza about their sons.
Dante's father. Does not mind expressing his love and affection for his family. Knows his son well and knows his sexual orientation by the way he looks at Ari.
Ari's aunt who passes away from a bad stroke. Ari and his parents are only immediate family members who attend funeral because her family ostracized her because she was gay. She was a caring and loving woman by opening her house to Ari when Mrs. Mendoza couldn't care for him during her mental breakdown. She helped raise Ari.
Gina and Susie
Friends of Ari and Dante from school. They like Ari. Both include Ari when socializing and crate a social circle for him that he didn't have before.
First girl Ari kisses. He does it at a party at the beginning of summer. She likes Ari a little but can't go further than that kiss. She has a boyfriend who is in a gang. She later gets pregnant and drops out of school.
Ari and Dante both explore this throughout the novel. Dante knows he is gay and has come to terms with it. Ari is in self denial and refused to accept that he likes Dante. Donate is worried that his parents would be upset if he came our. Both sets of parents knew about this love between them and have already prepared themselves.
Seen through a violent act against Dante and non-violent act against Ari's aunt Ophelia. She was shunned by her own f,silly because she lives with her female partner. His parents stood up for her and are accepting of Ari as well. Dante is beaten up because he is gay when thugs see him kissing Daniel. Daniel runs away and this shows he isn't ready to come out as gay.
Ari feels isolated from everyone. He is characterized as lonely and has no friends. He is isolated from his family as they don't share feelings, especially about his brother and his father's experiences in Vietnam. He is isolated socially until he meets Dante.
Dante's family is very close and comfortable showing signs of affection towards each other. Ari's family is silent,y living but dysfunctional. Everyone holds their feelings in and it sets up walls. As the novel progresses people open and he thinks about the people he loves a lot more. Ari's family was in denial about their experiences. His father and the war in Vietnam, his mother about what happened to their brother and him about his sexual orientation.
Mexican American Heritage
The way both boys interpret their ethnicity. There are no incidents of discrimination against them but there are stereotypes. These include Illeana's boyfriend being in a Mexican street gang and the traditional view of masculinity and manhood within the Mexican community.
Hate Crimes Motif
The main theme of the novel is sexuality and one of the main ways in which this theme appears is in the form of hate crimes. In Ari's case, this begins at home, although he doesn't know it yet. His brother is in prison serving a life sentence for the murder of a gay man. Dante is beaten up by a group of thugs who see him kissing Daniel. Both boys are discovering their sexuality and going through the process of coming out to family and friends, and both have examples of the prejudice and hate they may face in their own experience already.
Ari Saving Dante's Life Symbolism
Ari is mystified how his dad already knows that he is gay, and in love with Dante, when he has hardly yet realized it himself. His father tells him that when he put his own life at risk to save Dante's, he realized because risking your life to save the life of the one you love is a symbol of deep love, and in this case, symbolic of Ari's love for Dante.
Everyone in the novel has secrets and it is shown all the way through the story that keeping these secrets bottled up rather than getting them out into the open is a bad thing. A prime example of this is the secret of Ari's brother. His parents act as though his brother is dead and keep the reason for and the story surrounding his incarceration a secret from Ari. Of course this just fascinates him more, and makes him feel isolated from his parents. Had they told Ari the secret right away he would have felt a closeness with them and realized what strong people they are, and he might also have felt less fascination for his brother. The other secrets that appear are his father's experiences in Vietnam, his aunt's sexuality and his mother's mental breakdown.
Absence of Relatives Symbolism
At Aunt Ophelia's funeral Ari realizes that they are the only members of the family present and that everyone else is missing. He learns that Aunt Ophelia has been ostracized and "disowned" for her sexual orientation. The fact that Ari and his parents are the only family members at her funeral is symbolic of the fact that they were the only family members there for her in life as well.
Ari's Dream Symbolism
Ari dreams that Bernardo is across a large river and that although Ari can see him he cannot reach him. Ari shouts at Bernardo to come across the river and come home. This dream symbolizes Ari's fascination with Bernardo and his longing to have some kind of relationship with him. Although he knows that he is in prison for life and cannot physically come home, the dream symbolizes Ari's feeling that if the family were to talk about Bernardo then he would be able to come home in that he would be spoken about as if he was a member of the family again.
Through all of youth I was looking for you without knowing what I was looking for. -Epigraph preceding Section 6
Ari tells us very early on in the novel that he is looking for the secrets in the universe. He continues searching throughout the book. When he first suspects that he might have feelings for Dante, he suppresses them and is in a constant state of denial. When he finally admits to his feelings, he realizes that he should never have been ashamed of loving Dante because in this love he has found the secrets of the universe that he was searching for. This quote sums up his feelings; he didn't know that he was looking for Dante, but now he has found him his questions are answered and his search is over.
And somehow it felt like it was Dante who saved my life, not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being, apart from my mother, who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things yet I didn't have the words. So I stupidly repeated myself. "Dante's my friend". -Ari Mendoza, Section 3 "The End of
This is an enormously illuminating quote that sheds light on most of the issues that Ari is struggling with. He has just saved Dante's life by putting his own in danger, yet he seems to feel uncomfortable with the praise and gratitude he is receiving for doing so, because he still feels that Dante has done so much more for him than he has done for Dante. Meeting Dante feels like the most pivotal thing that ever happened in his life.
It also tells us that Ari is just like his family and has been conditioned by those around him to keep his thoughts to himself and not to share or express them.
Finally it shows that Ari cannot find the words to interpret for himself the way in which Dante makes him feel. How can he explain his feelings to his family when he cannot really explain them to himself. He knows that his life feels completely different now that Dante is in it, but he doesn't understand why this is so, and merely says that Dante is his friend , because he is unable to process what all of the other thoughts mean.
I had a rule that it was better to be bored by yourself than to be bored with someone else. I pretty much lived by that rule. Maybe that's why i didn't have any friends. -Ari Mendoza
Ari is definitely a boy given to introspection. He is often bored and thinks if you are going to be bored then you should be bored on your own. He doesn't realize that a great many teen boys are bored, and that being bored together can often create something interesting. He is rather a loner, because he has not really learned how to connect, and that has started in his upbringing. He is also now able to analyze his own behavior and situations and is beginning to realize that he has isolated himself from his peers and prevented friendships from forming by obeying his general rule all his life.
El Paso, Texas 1987
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