Analysis Essay on “Inside Out”
By: Elaine Wang
Abruptly entering a new environment without knowing even how to speak the language can often seem intimidating, even more so if you are only a child. In “Inside Out”, the author Francisco Jiménez describes his experience moving ten miles from his home in Corcoran, Californio, and how he dealt with the ups and downs his new home threw at him, all as a kid. There, he must learn to thrive in school by supporting himself and learning English. Learning to cope in these new surroundings can seem frightening when no one dares to lend a helping hand. In The Circuit’s “Inside Out”, Francisco Jiménez illustrates the challenges he faced during his first year of school in a completely new settlement, using his encounter with a caterpillar as a metaphor for growth.
At the beginning of the story, Francisco is very weak and powerless in his new surroundings. Jiménez describes the caterpillar in a short passage as an indirect sign of Francisco’s growth. For instance, when Francisco goes to school for the first time, he is very self-conscious and does not have anyone to rely on. Isolated in the classroom, Francisco observes, “On top of it, right next to my desk, was a caterpillar in a large jar. It looked just like the ones I had seen in the fields.” (Jiménez). The caterpillar is ordinary and powerless, with no one paying much attention to it. Like the caterpillar, Francisco is also ordinary and unnoticed. If Curtis, the class bully, were to bully Francisco, Francisco would be defenseless, just like if a bird were to attack the caterpillar. This initial description of how unmemorable, powerless, and feeble the two are, and allows more opportunities to show Francisco and the caterpillar’s growth.
In the middle of the story, the text reveals Francisco and the caterpillar have been growing since the beginning of the story. Francisco starts to learn some English and makes a friend, becoming more and more assertive in his surroundings. The caterpillar is also growing in its own way, eating pepper and cypress tree leaves, and making a “friend”, Francisco. Francisco narrates, “Often during recess I stayed with the caterpillar. Sometimes it was hard to spot him because he blended in with the green leaves and twigs. Every day I brought him leaves from the pepper and cypress trees that grew on the playground” (Jiménez). This shows the caterpillar is growing throughout the story, growing bigger and stronger through Francisco’s offerings, until it finally becomes a cocoon, then a butterfly in the end.
A section later in the story proves this point, describing the caterpillar’s adaptation to its environment like this: “... the caterpillar had spun itself into a cocoon and had attached itself to a small twig. It looked like a tiny, cotton bulb, just like Roberto had said it would. I gently stroked it with my index finger, picturing it asleep and peaceful” (Jiménez). Here we see the caterpillar growing in its new surroundings, just like Francisco.
When Francisco gets into a fight with Curtis, he is growing on the inside, becoming braver and tougher. Likewise, when the caterpillar spins itself into a cocoon, it is also growing on the inside. Clearly, this shows Francisco and the caterpillar are growing throughout the story, becoming closer and closer to their end goal; for the caterpillar it would be becoming a butterfly, and for Francisco, being acknowledged and accepted.
At the end of the story, Francisco becomes a well-liked student by both peers and teachers, and the caterpillar finally grows to become a butterfly. Francisco starts to be seen in a different light by his classmates after he wins first place in a drawing contest. Francisco narrates: “... I heard her say my name as she [Ms. Scalapino] held up a blue ribbon. …I knew then I had received first prize for my drawing. I was so proud I felt like bursting out of my skin” (Jiménez). The same afternoon Francisco earned his award, the cocoon also started to experience changes. Notice how Francisco states he is so proud when he receives his medal that he feels like “bursting out of his skin”, and that same day, the caterpillar also, quite literally, burst out of its skin. The event was, in a way, the achievement that finally allowed the individual to break through their limits. Throughout the story, Francisco Jiménez shows us how when you break through your limits and barriers - what keeps you from expressing yourself fully - you become accepted. Clearly, one can see how the caterpillar and Francisco are similar in many ways, including the obstacles they face, and how they persevere through them.
It cannot be ignored that learning to fit in and be accepted in completely new conditions and surroundings can be very challenging, especially so for a young boy like Francisco. Within the story, the caterpillar experiences a similar situation. Correspondingly, Francisco is often pressured, bullied, and plotted against by his peers because he is different from them. However, this is also what drives Francisco to grow both internally and externally to become acknowledged and to find a way to strive in even the most severe situations life throws his way.