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The Characters of Henry and El Pachuco in Zoot Suits by Luis Valdez

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In the play “Zoot Suits,” by Luis Valdez, tells the struggles of Mexican-Americans through the mysterious case of “sleepy lagoon.” In the story there is a modern tragic hero, Henry, and a mythical, altered ego of him, El Pachuco along with many other characters. Henry’s decisions are deeply affected by El Pachuco throughout the play. This is mostly because El Pachuco only interacts with Henry and the audience every now and then. Even so these interactions have a huge impact on Henry. Each character is unique on their own but relies on each other for the story to be told and make more sense.

Henry who is our main protagonist is a dynamic complex character. He is protective, strong, and distrustful. Henry is a dynamic character because he changes in various ways throughout the play whether negative or positive. In other words he is also a round character that has many different traits to him. He’s also very defensive to any negative mentions of the people he cares for. He will always put his family and friends first since “Nobody chinga con [his] familia without answering to him, ese.” This line translates to “nobody f*cks with [his] family without answering to him” perfectly illustrating how protective and careful he is when it comes to his family. In fact, in order to look out for his loved ones, he has to be strong which he is. He ends up going through a lot but he always remains strong and confident even though at some points it doesn’t seem like he is. When he is told by El Pachuco, if he believes he has a chance he replies with “yeah I think I got a chance,” and tries to keep his strong side by following up with“ Hank Reyna is no loser, I’m coming out on top.” However, like mentioned before, he doesn’t say it directly, instead most of the time it shows through his actions. He is always trying to remain strong and hopeful for not only his sake but for everyone else’s too. His untrustworthiness is also what prevents him from believing in being freed. He is always so wary of the people who try to provide him with help. He always denies the help he gets or calls them out for what he considers are their real intentions. Like with Alice when he confronts her and says “You think I haven’t seen through your bullshit? Always so concerned. Come on, boys. Speak out, boys. Stand up for your people. Well, you leave my people out of this! Can’t you understand that?”. He keeps his strong, leader attitude but his distrust causes him to reject any help from anyone other than a Chicano. Even so Henry grows and improves more along the story, making him the strong, protective, distrustful, and dynamic character he is.

Henry’s actions aren’t always influenced on their own. Henry’s interactions amongst the other characters can determine the outcomes of future events involving him. Like el Pachuco, a character that shares most of the play with Henry, by being in almost all scenes. He is always there to make brief comments sometimes directed towards just the audience or also Henry. This is called an aside. Although El Pachuco makes small comments these comments can greatly change the meaning of things for Henry. El Pachuco is negative, egoistic and judgmental. El Pachuco is always the one to say something negative like “You’re hoping for something that isn’t going to happen, ese… you really think you stand a chance?”. Such negative comments make henry feel hopeless at times and make it difficult for him to stay positive. Unlike Henry, El Pachuco has a very large ego, this makes him a foil. A foil is reflective or opposite traits to another characters that highlight the others, usually the protagonist’s, traits. When introduce to El Pachuco he enters adjusting his zoot suit and he “proudly, slovenly, defiantly makes his way downstage.” He obviously carries himself with lots of confidence and we can see this as we continue to read to the play. His prideful attitude makes Henry look much more humble and mirrors his good traits like his leadership and selflessness. Also because of El Pachuco’s highly impression of himself he tends to judge people quickly. Usually he ends up judging from appearance first like he did for George by warning Henry to “Check him out he looks like a cop.”Although being aware of the new people he meets helps keep his people safe, it also prevents him from cooperating with George. Still, this is only in the beginning it takes a while for George to gain Henry’s trust, but that’s because El Pachuco will constantly be suspicious causing Henry to be unsure of his trust. El Pachuco can be seen as a disruptive and troublesome character. While he is negative, judgmental, and egoistic without him Henry’s story wouldn’t be complete.

In the end Henry and El Pachuco are very important characters despite their flaws. El Pachuco highlighted the changes Henry was going through especially by the end. Once el Pachuco was gone from Henry’s presence he had accepted and grown into a better character, having more progress for him to make. Overall El Pachuco had great effect on Henry’s character. 

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The Characters Of Henry And El Pachuco In Zoot Suits By Luis Valdez. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from
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