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Barbarian Nurseries
Hector Tobar, the author of the book, is an American writer and journalist. He devotes his works to examining the issue of relationships between Americans and Latinos. The Barbarian Nurseries is one of his most popular books, which was written and published in 2011. The book became well-known after the author became nominated for New York Times Notable and California book awards. This essay is devoted to the analysis of the book. The essay will consist of several parts. The first part will contain the summary of the book. The second part, the analysis, will be divided into several subparts, analyzing literature devices used in the book. The main aim of the essay is to distinguish the dominant theme of the book The Barbarian Nurseries.


Araceli was serving at the Torres-Thompson family. She liked her work and the way she lived in the house. Araceli was a Mexican, one of the few Mexicans left in California. Her only duties were to clean and cook. However, one day, she awoke realizing that there was nobody home, except her and two Torres-Thompson children. Araceli waited for quite some time for children’s parents to return. However, since it was useless, she decided to find their grandfather, whom she knew only by photo.

The first problem Araceli faced was her lack of knowledge of how to cope with the boys. When Araceli had decided to find the grandfather, she promised the boys that it would be a journey. At that time, she did not know how true her words would become. In fact, they all had a hard time to find the grandfather. In the last pages, the boys’ parents returned home, did not find their children and addressed the police. As a result, Araceli was accused of kidnapping; however, the case was dismissed.

Literature analysis


Araceli Ramirez is the protagonist of the novel. She is a servant at the Torres-Thompson family. Araceli Ramirez is a Latin American immigrant who came to the United States of America seeking a better life. In fact, she is what makes the Torres-Thompson family stay together.

There are several archetypes of the characters. In the book, it is clear that Araceli Ramirez is the hero type. The reason is that she was doing everything she can to save children and give them hope that at least one of their relatives will be found. Perhaps, she wanted to surrender some day; however, she did not show her feelings to the boys. She was showing her strength to them, unlike their parents.

Moreover, there was one more achievement of Araceli as a nursery nurse. She had promised children a journey full of adventures, and she did that. Children, undoubtedly, were happy to travel with Araceli since they were amazed to see something beyond their house, ““We’re following the electricity,” Keenan said. “Yeah,” Brandon said. “We’re like electrons or something.”” (Tobar)

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Point of view

Apparently, neither of the characters is a narrator since the author of the novel took this role. The narrator is a wise person who knows much about the background of the characters. The writing is in the third person omniscient point of view.

Diction / Language

Before analyzing literature devices, it is essential to outline the peculiarities of the book. In fact, for some people, it is difficult to read the book. The point is that the book is bilingual. Araceli, the protagonist, is a Mexican emigrant who used to speak Spanish, while her employers speak English. Another problem is that Araceli is trying to speak English, but her language is poor; in some cases, she mixes English and Spanish, “Señora, you are sick. I think my enchiladas verdes are too strong for you. ¿Qué no?” (Tobar). Hence, it is difficult to understand what she wants to say. The peculiarities of The Barbarian Nurseries make it rather difficult to analyze it.


Imagery is perhaps the strongest device used in literature. The device is meant to provide the reader with the fullest picture of the situation. In the book The Barbarian Nurseries, the author provided his readers with a detailed description of the story. One may see imagery from the very first page:

His exertions produced only a brief flutter of the engine, like the cough of a sick child, and then an extended silence filled by the buzzing of two dragonflies doing figure eights over the uncut St. Augustine grass. The lawn was precocious, ambitious, eight inches tall, and for the moment it could entertain jungle dreams of one day shading the house from the sun. (Tobar)

Personification is used, in most cases, in fairy tales. However, the author of the book used this device to show how hard-working Mexicans were and how much the family of the Torres-Thompsons did not treasure what they had, “How long would the orange beaks of the heliconias in the backyard open to the sky without Pepe’s thick, smart fingers to bring them to life?” (Tobar)


Tone plays a significant role in every story. An author chooses tone throughout the story and makes a reader accept it. There are thousand variations of tones. In fact, a story or a novel may be sad, anxious, funny, optimistic, and serious, among others. The tone of the analyzed book is rather pessimistic than optimistic. The point is that the story, told in the novel, is not optimistic. Obviously, the author tried to make the pessimistic tone milder, having included the two little boys who could find a reason to be happy with relation to every small thing happening around them. Another optimistic moment is in the last pages when Araceli was found innocent.

The hero’s journey narrative structure

Joseph Campbell proposed a theory that every story and myth is based on the same scheme, which is the hero’s journey. He concluded that there were two stages of every journey, namely known and unknown. The protagonist has to pass all the tests (not only physical but also mental and spiritual ones) to return safe.

There are two stages of every journey, which are separation and initiation. The first stage finished the moment when Araceli awoke and found nobody but her and the boys in the house. In this situation, she first wanted to refuse to take the chance and find Mr. Torres, the grandfather. However, she managed to cope with her feelings and started the hero’s journey. The unknown part of the journey is the feelings of Araceli. One of the peculiarities of the book is that Araceli’s feelings and thoughts are given in italics. Hence, it is more convenient to find them and distinguish what she says from what she thinks. Araceli had two little boys who used to live like kings and an old photo of their grandfather. Thus, it is possible she had fear while starting her journey with the boys.

After the journey, she returned to the real world. It appears that police, media, parents, representatives of anti-immigrant movements chased her. However, Araceli returned with “elixir”, namely her strong character and will. She did not want to keep silent and accept all accusations. She had to protect herself, and she managed to do that. In the end of the story, a reader sees that Araceli Ramirez has greatly changed during her adventures.

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There are several themes in the novel. The author outlines the family relationship problem, the problem between servants and employers, rich and poor, and the immigration problem. The main topic of the novel is that there is no dead end until the death. Apparently, Araceli Ramirez, the protagonist, has shown this not only to the readers but also to her employers.

Araceli was an artist who came to the United States of America to seeking a better life. However, she was simply cooking and cleaning the house of the rich family. Obviously, that was not what she wanted. However, she did not complain even when one morning she awoke in the empty building with two children left by their parents. In fact, Araceli did not surrender. Instead, she took all her will into the fist and began to act. Thus, she found an old picture of the children’s grandfather with his address on it, took children and went to Los Angeles. Parents did not care about the children as much as Araceli did during the trip. Hereby, one should have a strong will and kind heart to act like that.


The main idea of the analysis was to outline the theme of the novel The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar. The essay contains a full analysis of literature devices, tone, plot, and structure of the novel. The last part of the paper is devoted to the main theme of the novel. One can outline several significant issues emphasized in the novel. However, the main theme is the theme of a struggle. However, this struggle took place not only with the world but mainly with oneself, which Araceli Ramirez, the protagonist, won.