Pride and Pity

While Kevin Moberg’s An Amigo’s Adventure describes an incident from the perspective of a small, young, Mexican boy, it also reveals a lot about the culture of the Americans who came to build this boy a new house. Throughout the work, there are comparisons between the way the little Mexican boy lives his life, and the American middle-class teenager way of life. Class differences are portrayed frequently, including contrasts between availability of mechanical tools and the quality of housing. Through demonstrations of those class differences, along with the feelings of pride and pity, the identity of the American teenagers are revealed as caring, understanding people, eager to share their own happiness and joy with everyone.

The first major comparison between the two cultures is the differing access that both cultures have to mechanical tools. It is demonstrated when the Mexican boy hears of the visitors and asks, "what tools were they going to bring, Daddy has a hammer and saw" (1). We are quickly shown the situation that the Mexican boy has grown up in. The only kinds of technology available to them are simple tools such as the hammer and the saw. There is a sharp difference between that experience and the tools at the disposal of the Americans. The boy is amazed that "they had these powerful saws that made lots of noise, a little machine that shot nails, and all sorts of neat little gadgets that were used throughout the construction" (3). Even though these tools are taken for granted in the economic class from which these teenagers come from, they are prized and amazing things in the culture of this young boy. These Americans take their advanced tools into a place where they literally do not exist, and use them to benefit a poor family in a whole different economic class. The teenagers give their tools to the effort of helping spread their joy to those who may not often be able to experience that ecstasy.

These tools were used to create a house, another thing that the American culture often takes for granted even though it is not as prevalent outside of their economic class. In fact, what we would normally consider a very small building is called, by this boy, a mansion. "It took me . . . a total of 60 steps around the whole thing! This was huge, even bigger then most of the other mansions in the area!" (4). For a family of four in the middle class of the United States, this size of house would be completely unacceptable. The American family is used to having more personal space than this house would allow. However, to this boy he is living in paradise with his mansion, and the teenagers realize this. They know that they don’t have to build an American size mansion to make this family happy. They provide their tools and skills to make this Mexican family’s life more pleasurable and worthwhile.

Even though all these material things are important to both the cultures, the underlying theme of pride is very important to understanding both sides of this clash in cultures. Pride is what distinguishes the identity of the poor Mexican boy from the Americans who are helping his family. The boy finds pride in material things throughout the story. After describing the joy he got from his pair of shoes he says, "I was ready for another present that I could adore, care for, and take pride in" (2). The boy’s pride comes from his presents. The things that he has gives him hope and joy. His pride is seen again when he talks of all the joy he receives from his "mansion" and how much it pleased him to share his "mansion" with others. The pride exhibited by the Americans is of an entirely different kind; they received pride through emotional events. The whole trip was an effort to gain some pride from helping those that are less fortunate than themselves. The reason these groups head out into other places where fancy houses are not normal is that they are trying to feel better about themselves. Knowing that they have helped someone in need makes them feel better. They go from place to place building these houses so that they can feel that they have done something they can be proud of. Both the American teenagers, and the Mexican family become happy since they both get what they wanted. The Mexican family gets the new "mansion," and the Americans get the pride of helping others.

Just as important as the impact of pride on the identity of the American teenagers is the influence of pity on their actions. The Mexican who talks to the little boy clearly states, "These workers were high school students from America who had a deep desire to help people with tougher living circumstances then themselves" (3). That straightforward statement accurately reveals that pity truly defines the American upper middle-class culture. In America we are bombarded by messages appealing to that sense of pity. We are encouraged to help the homeless get back on their feet. We are asked to support starving children in foreign countries. These teenagers acted on their feeling of pity, and went down to Mexico to help those in need. This pity drove them to help out "people with tougher living circumstances" so that their pride and happiness could increase. Therefore, the assistance the Americans provided this Mexican family was a way to react to the Americans pity and help out the less fortunate. The Americans behaved in a caring and unselfish way, to make the day for a family of four that were not nearly as well off as themselves. This sense of pity, and how they deal with that pity, is what defines who these American teenagers are.

These teenagers used their sense of pride and pity to motivate them to provide a deprived family a little happiness. They supplied the family with material things to make their life more bearable, and at the same time, the Americans gained pride in their actions. The culture that these teenagers come from is one which believes in caring for those who are less fortunate, and this characteristic shapes the identity of these compassionate house builders.