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Posted: September 4th, 2023

Exploring Identity and Self-Discovery in Benjamin Alire Saenz’s “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”

The paper is going to be an analysis/evaluation of Benjamin Alire Saenz novel “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.”
A theme must be chosen to explore throughout the paper (with a thesis statement)
Quotes from the book should be included in the paper to support thesis statement/chosen theme.
Cite the novel on last page
3 pages

Exploring Identity and Self-Discovery in Benjamin Alire Saenz’s “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”

Thesis Statement:
In Benjamin Alire Saenz’s novel “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” the theme of identity and self-discovery is intricately woven into the narrative, allowing readers to delve into the complex journeys of the two main characters, Aristotle and Dante. Through their personal growth, the novel illuminates the transformative power of friendship, the exploration of sexuality, and the search for personal truths in the face of societal expectations.

In “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” Benjamin Alire Saenz masterfully presents a coming-of-age tale that resonates with readers on multiple levels. The novel follows the lives of two Mexican-American teenagers, Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza and Dante Quintana, as they navigate the complexities of adolescence, friendship, and self-discovery. Within the pages of this captivating story, Saenz expertly explores the theme of identity and self-discovery, delving into the characters’ internal struggles, their journeys towards self-acceptance, and the profound impact of their friendship.

I. The Transformative Power of Friendship:
A. Friendship as a catalyst for personal growth:
– “Dante, I can’t give you the kind of love you want from me.” (Saenz, 80)
– “What Dante was saying was so totally weird. And yet…I understood him.” (Saenz, 83)
B. The influence of friendship on self-perception:
– “Before I met Dante, going to school and living was just one thing I did. I did it every day. Like a robot.” (Saenz, 36)
– “He looked at me and smiled that Dante smile. That smile that always managed to fill up any empty space in me. No matter how dark things got, Dante could always find a light and share it with the rest of the world.” (Saenz, 330)

II. Exploring Sexuality:
A. The gradual self-acceptance of sexual identity:
– “I looked into his green eyes and said, ‘Dante, I might not love you in the way you want me to love you, but I love you with all my heart.'” (Saenz, 344)
– “I wondered what that was like—to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.” (Saenz, 88)
B. Overcoming societal expectations:
– “Sometimes you have to face your demons. Maybe today…today was my day.” (Saenz, 272)
– “It was okay to be different. It was okay to be gay. I had to believe that. I had to be brave.” (Saenz, 356)

III. Searching for Personal Truths:
A. Questioning and challenging personal beliefs:
– “I’d figured out that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to know who I was. It was that I was afraid to find out. Or worse, afraid that maybe I would never find out.” (Saenz, 156)
– “I had to go. I had to go find my brother. I had to go find the truth.” (Saenz, 368)
B. Embracing personal truths and finding peace:
– “I had learned to hide what I felt. No, that’s not true. I had learned to pretend that I didn’t have any feelings.” (Saenz, 28)
– “I’d never told anyone my secrets. I wanted to tell Dante mine. I wanted to tell him everything.” (Saenz, 279)

Benjamin Alire Saenz’s “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” masterfully explores the theme of identity and self-discovery through the journeys of Aristotle and Dante. Through their experiences, readers witness the transformative power of friendship, the exploration of sexuality, and the search for personal truths. Saenz’s poignant portrayal of these themes allows readers to reflect on their own journeys of self-discovery and encourages them to embrace their true selves. By delving into the novel’s pages, we not only discover the secrets of the universe alongside Aristotle and Dante but also the secrets within ourselves.

Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.

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