Emma’s Critique of The Feast of San Sebastian

by newerawriters


The only part of this excerpt of The Feast of San Sebastian that I was unclear on was during the long bit of dialogue starting with “How are the girls from this last shipment” to “Jesus, you ever take a break? That’s why you have ulcers, you don’t know how to relax.” I was confused throughout this long stretch of dialogue as to who was talking: Carlos or Ilan. I knew the line “And killing someone to dismember them and sell their organs isn’t” was said by Ilan but I got lost again after that line as to who was talking. I think that more speech tags during this part of the text would bring more clarity to the reader. Another small part of the text I was confused about is when the abuelo was brought into the story. The preceding line is “For now, however, Fajardo would have to do.” And when the abuelo is described to have saved up for twenty-five years to buy the house, I assumed the abuelo was still alive. Not much later, we find out that he had died. I don’t think this is a big deal, I was just thrown a little when I found out that the abuelo was dead when I thought that Ilan was going to visit his grandfather.

Emotional Impact:

Reading this excerpt of The Feast of San Sebastian, I had many emotional reactions to the story. The beginning of the excerpt where the boy picks up a twenty-dollar bill and then notices the gates meant to keep him and people like him out, was very visual and made me cringe. I felt a turning in my stomach as I read this passage. During the part where Ilan is describing his airplane rides to set up deals, there are phrases such as “twist his insides” and “calm his nerves” but I was not feeling those emotions right when I was reading that passage. However, as I said earlier, I was feeling my stomach wringing prior to this scene and that sensation was heightened after the description of his airplane trips. When I learned that Carlos has killed a woman and is dismembering her, I had a sickly feeling in my stomach. I wanted to feel these emotions along with Ilan when he’s describing his plane rides and fear of getting caught partaking in illegal activities but I think that there is an interesting sandwiching effect of the reader feeling a strong emotion, Ilan stating that he feels the same emotion (without the reader really feeling it), and the reader feeling that emotion again.


The beginning of the excerpt talks about taking a break from “business as usual” but the piece centers around understanding Ilan’s “business as usual.” The descriptions of the business he’s involved in heightens the desire for a break from the business. The piece ends with telling the reader why Ilan became involved in illegal business in the first place. The reader is almost the one given a “break” from the emotional impact of learning about the extent to which Ilan’s involvement in illegal affairs goes by getting a description of his practicing baseball because his grandfather believed he could be the next “Roberto Clemente.” The descriptions of the light over the mountains also serve as a break from the gut-wrenching descriptions of poverty and businesses people are forced into to make money. There is a tension between the gut-wrenching descriptions and the descriptions of color and light and pleasant memories such that the reader wants to hold on to the pleasant memories but knows that they are only temporary because we get in the very first line that Ilan only gets a two-day break from his reality, and the reader can expect to be treated in the same way.