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Textverständnis und Analyse: Sachtext "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant" by J.A. Vargas


  1. Summarize the information on Jose Antonio Vargas as provided in the text. (20%)                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  2. Show how the author succeeds in arousing the reader’s interest in his story. Give evidence from the text, also referring to the impression conveyed by the photos. (25%)



Jose Antonio Vargas originally comes from the Philippines which can be deduced from his use of the words “Lolo” for grandfather and “Lola” for grandmother (l.2f.). As we find out, these expressions come from the Tagalog language. Furthermore, he claims that his mother “sent (…) [him] thousands of miles away to live (…) in America” (l.1f.) which adds up to the idea of the Philippines being his country of origin.

He spent his youth in “Mountain View, Calif.” (l.3f.) where he “entered sixth grade” (l.4) in middle school. Although he had a “passion for language” (l.5f.), it was difficult for Jose to distinguish between formal and informal English (l.6), which sometimes caused confusion and laughter among his friends.

At the age of 16, when Jose wanted to get his driver’s license, his green card was rejected at the D.M.V. Later, his grandfather told him that he had bought him some fake documents, obviously to ensure Jose’s stay in America (l.23f.).

After high school, Jose visited college and became a journalist (l.27f.). But he still does not have any proper documents (l.31) and lives in permanent fear (l.32f.). Moreover, his daily life consists of distrust (l.33) and hiding his true origin, even from his friends, because he wants to avoid being questioned about his cultural background (l.34f.).

Although Jose has had to cope with all of these problems in his life, he considers himself an American and America to be his home country (l.41f.).


Not only uses the author the first person narrator to arouse the reader’s interest, but also different stylistic devices such as direct speech, irony, anaphora and metaphor.

The function of the first person narrator is to “draw” the reader into the story and to enable the identification with the protagonist. The pronoun “I” is frequently used throughout the text and thereby converts the story into a very personal experience. Furthermore, the author directly addresses the reader as if he were directly talking to them (“your strawberries”, l.39; “articles you might read”, l.40).

Moreover, the use of direct speech also lets the reader become involved in the story. This way, they can experience the story as if it was a conversation they were attending personally (“What’s up? (…) The sky”, l.8; “This is fake (…) Don’t come back again.”, l.15f.; “Don’t show it to other people.”, l.23.)

The author also makes use of irony to make the reader smile and to let them think about the message behind it. Thus, criticism can be expressed without directly mentioning it in the text (“I won the eight-grade spelling bee by memorizing words I couldn’t properly pronounce.“, l.9f.; “[E]ven though I (…) consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.”, l.41-43.)

Another means of transporting the author’s message and putting emphasis on it are anaphora. By repeating certain words and sentence structures, the reader is able to focus on the content and to remember it more easily (“I decided (…) I could (…) I convinced (…) I worked (…) I achieved (…) I would (…) I felt (…) I could“, l.24-26; “Some pick (…) Some are (…) some (…) write”, l.38-40;  “that means living” (…) It means going (…) It means rarely trusting (…) It means keeping”, l.31-34.)

In addition, the author uses a metaphor when he talks about the reason why his parents got divorced. Thus, he evokes a picture in the reader’s mind and makes the story more vivid. A “wandering eye” (l.20) is a medical condition that causes the eye to drift away when looking at something. In the text, the author refers to the infidelity of his father.

The pictures also contribute to arousing the reader’s interest by showing the author’s struggle of becoming a proper American. In the picture of him and his mother it can clearly be seen that Jose is a Filipino. The pictures of his staying papers mark him as an immigrant and a resident alien but when he gets his driver’s license, there is no trace of him being anything but an American. And finally, during his high-school graduation,
he covers his eyes with sunglasses to look like a proper American.

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