The Symbolism Portrayed in The Jacket by Gary Soto

Categories: Gary Soto

In “The Jacket”, Gary Soto illustrates that wearing an item of clothing against your will can make you insecure, develop a form of self-destruction, and eventually cause isolation. The story begins with the boy needing a new cool jacket, and his mom gets him an ugly green jacket. He goes to school and gets made fun of by everyone. He thinks that the jacket is what is giving him bad luck. The young boy leaves the jacket at the park and misses it.

In the end, he learns to accept the jacket whether it’s ugly or not. He feels that the jacket makes him look foolish and also makes him very uncomfortable around friends. The young boy feels insecure because of his assumption that his teachers are making fun of him when in fact, they are not noticing him at all. This item was what started a living nightmare for the next three years of his life. His attitude changes by the end of the story because, in the beginning, he is more angry and embarrassed.

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While in the end, after accepting the jacket, he feels frustrated and bitter. Feelings toward how the jacket looks didn’t change but his altitude did, he learns how to accept his jacket. If he accepted it from the start his life would’ve been better.

When the boy wears his new jacket to school, he starts imagining the others are mocking him. The narrator writes, “The teachers were no help; they looked my way and talked about how foolish I looked in my new jacket.

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I saw their heads bob with laughter, their hands half-covering their mouths.” He is paranoid that his peers and teachers mocking his jacket when he returns to school after receiving the jacket. He also feels inadequate and imagines others making fun of him. As a reader, we recognize that is likely only in his head, and that they were not even noticing his jacket at all, but it illustrates how self-conscious and insecure the jacket made him. Wearing this jacket and his paranoia about this new jacket make him insecure and develop a form of self-destruction in him.

The narrator wears the hated jacket for three years, a span of time that was very unhappy for him. Initially, he feels that his peers and teachers are mocking him. Later, he blames the jacket for the fact that no girls find him attractive. Last, when he complains that the jacket is falling apart, his mother scolds him for being ungrateful. He feels looked down upon, left out socially, and misunderstood during these three years, and he associates those sad feelings with the jacket he was made to wear against his will.

Between the bitter moment when the boy first sees the ugly jacket and realizes he’s stuck with it, to the end where he seems to accept the jacket as an unhappy reality in his life, we see change. At first, he is overwhelmed by how much he hates the jacket and how it makes him feel inadequate. The narrator says, “From my bed, I stared at the jacket. I wanted to cry because it was so ugly and so big that I knew I would have to wear it for a long time...I stared at the jacket like an enemy.” However, in the end, he realizes that his insecurities about his poverty and the fact that his family doesn’t understand American ways are just something he will have to live with and accept. “I stared up the ally and soon slipped on my jacket, that green ugly brother who breathed over my shoulder that day and ever since,” he says. Throughout the story, the jacket remains a source of embarrassment and shame to him as he is wearing it against his will, but the young boy seems to come to terms with it at the end of the story, changing his life for the better.

Wearing an item of clothing against your will can make you insecure, develop a form of self-destruction, and could eventually cause isolation. Insecurity arises from the lack of confidence and feeds upon a weak character, it takes time to learn how to gain a footing in your life and comfortably grow into your own skin. During teenage years insecurities are very common. Where overcoming self-doubt is a major part of growing up and maturing into adults. They often feel insecure about their appearance and what others think of them. They feel like everyone is judging them so they pretend to be someone else, they feel like they are having the “wrong kind” body, clothes, hobbies, entourage, and the list goes on. Not knowing that they don’t need to be accepted by others, but what they really need is to accept themselves. The young boy accepts the jacket and his life circumstances, and he seems to come to terms with the jacket at the end of the story changing his life for the better.

I was 12 years old and I was completely ashamed of anything that I’d wear, I just felt like my clothes were the “wrong kind” of clothes and that they were so ugly compared to everyone else’s, thinking that they made me looks fat. I was 13 and I was forcing myself to throw up everything that I’d eat in the morning. I was desperate to be so thin; I was trying so hard to be perfect, I was never able to be confident in what I wore, and I was so scared of what others would think of me. Would they like me as much? would they think that I was fat? I didn’t even realize what I was doing to myself, but I was droning on and on. I thought that I was myself no one will ever like me.

I used to talk with my mother and tell her about all the people I know, how great they are, how amazing their lives are, and how much I wanted to be like them, and how jealous I was. One day my she stopped me, and she said: “Sandi, you need to meet yourself.” And when she said that to me it was like something changed, it was like she held a mirror up for me and what she was showing me was so different from what I’d ever seen before. She said “You should be jealous of yourself. You’re hard-working; you’re resilient. If you could meet yourself you might really like her.” But as quickly as she painted that image of me it was gone. And I was so confused because I only see myself as embarrassing, unlovable, and awkward. But I loved that image she created, and I really wanted it back. So I decided to start accepting myself the way God created me and it’s just something I have to live with. I learned to go-ahead and confidently wear whatever I want, not caring about what others would think about me. It also makes me think about how people’s thoughts can influence their self-esteem. This story is also about how caring about what others think about you can make you insecure and can lower your self-esteem, but when you learn to accept the way you are and be thankful for everything you have life will become easier. You don’t need to be accepted by others, but what you really need is to accept yourself.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Symbolism Portrayed in The Jacket by Gary Soto. (2024, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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