In A Boy without a Flag , Rodriguez illustrates a realistic community in the South Bronx. As the collection begins, the first few stories are in first person. As the reader reaches the end of the collection, the stories become narrated by a third person. These stories show the conditions of the characters’ community and the consequences of living in that community. He illustrates that the end of violence begins with a generation, but as it is depicted in the last stories, those who are victims of this community find it difficult to change their condition for future generations.
For example, in “Ebla,” the final story of the collection, Ebla is a mother being abused and neglected by her spouse: “She ducked too late and fell against the couch, where he cornered her and pounded her some more, until she lay motionless and staring” (108). After he abuses her, she becomes quiet and helpless. She takes out her anger on the baby because it reminds her of the man she married: “She dropped the baby into the crib. The fall seemed to stun him for a second, and he remained motionless and staring” (114). The last words of this passage are the same as those in the previous quote, illustrating that the violence ensued by others passes on through generations.
Similarly, Ebla’s mother was helpful to Elba when she found out she was pregnant because she had also experienced what Elba was going through: “Her mother was sympathetic about it only because the same thing had pretty much happened to her” (111). Her father does not feel the same way. It seems like the men in this vignette are unable to sympathize with the women. Elba, however, is resentful toward her baby and often leaves it crying in its crib. At the end, she leaves the house and dresses up, turning on music to drown out the baby’s cries. These scenes illustrate the effects this behavior has on future generations.
In “Babies,” the main character finds out she is pregnant and cannot tell her boyfriend. She keeps it a secret and continues to inject herself with heroin. Unlike Diana, the narrator decides to get an abortion at the end of the story. Rodriguez attempts to illustrate the lives of people in this realistic setting without bias. When writing in first person, as in “Babies,” Rodriguez allows the reader to get attached to the narrator, while also questioning their morality. Near the end of each story, the narrator will admit something that detaches them from the reader. In “Babies,” this line attempts to do just that: “…an he gimme a book to read: Christine F. I read like four pages an said enough of this shit, I hate books” (49). Since the reader is reading a book, they feel distant from the narrator.
When he writes in third person, Rodriguez uses less colloquial language and dialect. This effect makes the story seem factual and unbiased. His characters are simply portrayed as they are, without embellished opinionated sentences to describe their morality. The last three stories are in third person. The lack of dialect illustrates the narrator’s distance from the people he is writing about, while the factual evidence allows the reader to believe he is reliable. Through this writing style, Rodriguez is able to accurately portray his characters’ conditions and what makes them commit immoral actions.