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October Sky and Living up the Street Comparison

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October Sky and Living up the Street Comparison

Gary Soto and Homer Hickam

        In the novel, Living Up the Street by Gary Soto, and the film October Sky, with Homer Hickam both boys fought to escape their predestined lives. For Gary, growing in Fresno, California among the fields and factories, his future was limited to working in the fields or packing houses. In Coalwood, West Virginia, Homer feared the dark, deadly coal mine which was the only job in the area. Both boys fought against to live their lives as their fathers had; either coal mining or field work. Although Gary and Homer pushed against their challenges of poverty, family support, and fear of death, their desire for another life continued to motivate them until they finally achieve their dreams.

        Gary and Homer faced poverty in their lives. At a very young age, Gary Soto worked in the fields because he could not afford to buy school clothes, “She drove in silence while I rambled on how everything was now solved, how I was going to make enough money to end our misery and even buy her a beautiful copper tea pot” (103). There was also a time when Gary saw himself eating turtle soup “white’ families on television ate, “ Our mom was in a good mood, so I took a risk and ask her… we could have turtle soup…I had watched a television program in which a Polynesian tribe killed a large turtle…” (29). This was the image he wanted for his family. Although Gary Soto and his family were poor, they learned to survive.

Homer Hickam’s poverty also kept him from achieving his goal of becoming a rocket engineer. His family was also poor since the only job in his town was coalmining, a dangerous job, with no other work opportunities. When his dad was injured at the mine, Homer left school and his dream because he had to support his mom. Since his dad could not work and his brother received a scholarship, Homer’s brother could not leave school. Even though poverty and a lack of positive educational experiences created barriers, Gary wanted to have the food, the clothes, toys and a father like he saw on television while Homer wanted to build rockets and leave coal mining.

        Gary and Homer also faced other challenges. Gary Soto was exposed to racism when he was at the park and a rich girl fell from one of the playground games. Then her father starts shouting racist words, “You filthy Mexican” (pg. 13). These experiences created a negative self-identity. Gary thought that if he was to identify himself with Americans, he would be respected. Homer Hickam was also a victim of prejudice because he was not the best student in school and some teachers thought he would never become a rocket engineer. Homer’s only support was his teacher Ms. Riley which always believed in him and always told him to listen to his heart and follow his dreams.

        Gary and Homer also lacked family support. Since Gary was poor, his mother had little time to pay attention or help him in his concerns. For example, his mom was not always home caring for Gary and his siblings, but teach them to behave. When she left for work, she told them not to go outside because if the police saw that no one was taking care of children, the mother could get in trouble. So, Gary and his siblings did what they wanted because there was no one to tell them what was right or wrong. Homer Hickam’s family was also unsupportive when he wanted to be a rocket engineer. Homer had great ideas and he tried learning about rockets, but his father wanted him to work at the coal mine. When Homer’s dad was injured, Homer had to go to work to support his family. He thought his dream was never going to come true, but he decided coal mining was not his life and he was going to follow his dream and reach his goal.

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