Erik Erikson once wrote, In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity. Erikson displays the deep struggles one must tolerate during their extensive search for a niche to retain and live their own way. Aristotle and Dante, from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire S?- enz, endure this perception of themselves. They struggle to hold themselves accountable for their assessments of particular conditions and attempt to uncover their genuine personality. Through the development of Ari and Dante’s relationship, Alire S?- enz displays the significance of one embracing contrasting appearances and opinions to form an everlasting bond and trust with another person.
In the novel, Alire S?- enz clearly expresses the challenge of being part of an exclusive race. After meeting Dante, the first thing Ari discovers is Dante’s extreme disinterest in shoes; Dante took off his shoes whenever he desired. One time, when Dante came into Ari’s house, … Dante would place his shoes on the front porch and say, ?The Japanese do that,’ ?Yeah,’ I said, ?but we’re not Japanese. We’re Mexican,’ (Alire S?- enz 44). Ari, in this instance, does not realize the importance of integrating other cultures if one was previously accepting another culture, because his old approach functions more advantageously to him. Having his ridiculous obsession with having no shoes confuses the already perplexed Ari, Dante has shown that misunderstanding a belief or lacking an open mind can toughen one’s road to their understanding about others’ and their own identity.
Approaching the end of the novel, Ari talks with his parents about recent incidents. During the talk, his father talks about Vietnam, but then he uncovers the real reason why Ari cannot find his true self, his niche he was looking for. Ari, the problem isn’t just that Dante’s in love with you. The real problem — for you, anyway — is that you’re in love with him (Alire S?- enz 348). Ari refuses to admit his love for Dante because it is against his ideology and he refuses to accept new ones. This case exhibits the importance of accommodating other customs to finally discover the hidden secrets of life and feeling. Also, to his father, being gay and loving Dante was not a problem. Towards Ari, he says, for you, anyway, as if to say Ari is the only one disagreeing, and nobody is going to stand in his way, rather his family and Dante’s family will support him in doing so. One of the limited choices of forming and strengthening relationships is to accept each other’s contrasting ideologies and uncover the true person underneath the thoughts to communicate.
In addition, a key component to a substantial relationship is to encourage and defend one another. At one moment in the story, after Ari and Dante are acquainted, it hails after they swim together. After the storm passes, they see an injured bird in the middle of the street, and Dante runs out to help it to the side of the street. However, Ari notices a car swerving around the corner, heading right for Dante. [Dante] just kept on talking. ?You dove at me like some kind of a football player diving at the guy with the ball, and you pushed me out of the way,’ (Alire S?- enz 117). Dante could not stop thanking Ari for saving his life and risking his own. As his father mentions near the end of the novel, Ari could not bear the fact that he could have lost Dante, showing that he wanted to preserve a long-lasting relationship with someone. Deeper into the story, Dante is kissing a guy in an alley before a gang beat him up, sending him to the hospital. Ari is infuriated and locates Julian Enriquez, a member of the group who attacked Dante earlier.
Ari approaches him, showing off his truck, then shoves him up against the door. Julian starts to retaliate, then, It didn’t take long before he was on the ground. I was saying things to him, cussing at him. Everything was a blur and I just kept going at him, (Alire S?- enz 314-15). Ari realizes that Julian hurt Dante so bad he had to go to the hospital, and that could have meant the loss of his only friend. Therefore, he forces himself to get revenge for Dante so that his solitary companion would not suffer additional physical pain with him nearby. This book clearly shows the importance of defending and encouraging each other in any relationship to enhance and continue the partnership.
As evident as it has become in Aristotle and Dante’s relationship, one must disregard differences of another person and unearth the personality hidden to truly communicate, and advocate for that person to build trust and experience an improved relationship. Despite their deep teenage struggles, they are able to discover an idea very important to both of them: their sense of belonging and identity. With the help of each other and their families, they were able to get past the hardships and barricade the unwelcoming prejudice from peers about what they care about most.
As most children and sometimes adults face these problems, they are not alone. One of the sole reasons the world is at war is because countries cannot get past each other’s contradicting ideas and the inability to accommodate. As humans, we stand up for particular things, but we never think about other people’s ideas and the consequences of not even glancing at them, similar or far apart. If, and only if, we can get past each other’s differences, we can see the bright side of other proposals and the world will be left a better place for the next generation of political leaders.
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