Gary Soto's Use of Literary Devices


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Gary Soto’s autobiographical narrative reinvents a memory of his guilty six-year-old self. Soto is a hungry child who wants nothing more than a pie from the German market. He has no experiences of sin being bad except from what he is told, from his parents and from the bible. The author eventually learns from experience as he steals a pie and savors its sweetness, until he realizes the harm he cannot undo. In this narrative, Soto uses alliteration, imagery, and allusion to achieve his ultimate purpose of recognizing that although the prize may seem extremely worth it in the short run, stealing and sin is wrong.

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The reader can recognize the author’s feelings of guilt from the outset because he is already trying to justify himself for something he did. Soto uses alliteration and imagery to draw the reader’s attention to his justification of stealing the pie. After recognizing that he was told stealing is wrong and it would send you to hell, Soto still tries to justify himself in line 7 when he says, “But boredom made me sin. Once, at the German Market, I stood before a rack of pies, my sweet tooth gleaming and the juice of guilt wetting my underarms.” The author’s use of alliteration and imagery underscores the author’s recognition that stealing is wrong, but the pie’s looked so savory that the couldn’t resist. The fact that the author had to think so deeply on whether or not to steal the pie should have sent him the signal that he should not have stolen.

The author also utilizes imagery to describe what he stole for and justify why he stole. Soto describes that the best things in life come stolen and that he felt bad for not sharing the pie with the neighbor Johnny before describing how savory and sweet the pie was when he says, on line 51, “Crust fell from my mouth, and my teeth were bathed with jam-like filling. Tears blurred my eyes as I remembered the grocer’s forehead. I remembered the other pies on the rack, the warm air of the fan above the door and the car that honked as I crossed the street without looking.” In the short term, all the six-year-old can thing about is how good the pie tastes, but doesn’t realize how bad sin is in the long run. Although the author doesn’t share with Johnny, it is not only because the pie tastes so good, but also because he doesn’t want Johnny to have to feel the guilt that he is currently experiencing. Imagery of how good the pie tastes wins Soto’s conscious in the short run, but before long he is reminiscing about the grocer who he stole from.

Soto uses allusion to reveal his recognition that sin is wrong. He went underneath the house to evade helping his sister and remain cool before, on line 83, he says, “I lay until I was cold and then crawled back to the light, rising from one knee, then another, to dust off my pants and squint in the harsh light. I looked and saw the glare of a pie tin on a hot day. I knew sin was what you took and didn’t give back.” Soto alludes to himself as being reborn in a new light. After he gets up from one knee, he has a completely changed outlook and feels guilty about stealing. The glaring pie tin represents the glaring guiltiness that he is currently feeling. The pie has been eaten and now the empty tin parallels the emptiness the author feels after shallowly stealing and recognizing that what he did was wrong. Soto ultimately admits his fault in the last sentence of the passage and underscores his current thought that his sin cannot be undone.

The author uses alliteration, imagery, and allusion to reveal his experience of identifying that sin is wrong and permanent. Soto was told this in the past, but his experience truly brings this lesson to life as he learns from his failure. He is only six years old, but he can learn from the past and allows himself to understand his faults. In conclusion, Gary Soto uses imagery, alliteration, and allusion to achieve his ultimate purpose of conveying that stealing may seem prosperous in the short term, but the long run guilt will never go away.

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