The most important characters in “Deportation at Breakfast” by Larry Fondation are the narrator, Javier and the people in the diner. The customers form, in fact, a collective character, dominated by the same characteristics.
The anonymous narrator is the protagonist of the short story. He is not given a name or an age because his identity is not important. He is only useful to the narration because he represents a stereotype.
Initially, the narrator finds himself attracted to the beautiful aspect of the diner:
“The signs on the windows lured me inside. For a dollar I could get two eggs, toast, and potatoes. The place looked better than most – family-run and clean. The signs were hand-lettered and neat. The paper had yellowed some, but the black letters remained bold. A green-and-white awning was perched over the door, where the name “Clara’s” was stenciled.” (p. 183, ll. 1-5)
Javier is the man behind the counter at “Carla’s” diner. We do not know initially if he is a simple employee or if he owns the place. He is depicted directly through the eyes of the narrator: “Behind the counter was a short man with dark, black hair, a moustache, and a youthful beard, one that never grew much past stubble. He was dressed immaculately, all in chef’s white – pants, shirt, and apron…” (p. 183, ll. 15-17)
The customers in the diner
Initially, the diner is almost empty: “Two elderly men sat at one, two elderly women at the other. The two women were talking. The men were reading the paper.” (p. 185, ll. 15-16)
The main theme of “Deportation at Breakfast” by Larry Fondation is that of illegal immigration to the USA, especially from Latin America.
Illegal immigration is the main theme of the short story. Javier is the Mexican immigrant who gets caught by the authorities and who is taken away, most likely in order to be deported.
As you probably noticed, we are not given any information about Javier’s life, his past or the reasons he has come to America illegally. In fact, we are given the impression that the reasons do not even matter, as they are common to every other Mexican immigrant in the USA: the search for a better life.
As we have already mentioned in previous parts of the study guide, an important symbol in the short story is the counter. In the diner, the counter functions as a separation mark between Americans and illegal immigrants. They do not physically interact or meet on a neutral ground, as they are separated by the counter.
In front of the counter, Americans come and order their food, eat their meals in peace and focus on their issues. Behind the counter is the immigrant, Javier, whose life is unknown to the others.