Marta Salinas’ “The Scholarship Jacket” was first published in 1986. It relates the narrative of a little Mexican American girl who is subjected to a schoolyard injustice. It’s a well-known student short story.
Summary of The Scholarship Jacket by Marta Salinas
Martha, the narrator, is about to finish eighth grade at her Texas school. Every year during graduation, the school presents the class valedictorian, the student with the highest grades across eight years, with a gorgeous jacket embroidered with a “S” and the winner’s name.
Rosie, Martha’s older sister, had already won it. This year, Martha is going to be the winner.
She is cared for by her grandparents. Her parents were unable to support all of their children. Martha is really frail. She is unsatisfied with her appearance, but she is intelligent.
Martha has to return to her classroom one day near the conclusion of the school year to get her gym shorts. She comes to a halt outside the door after hearing angry voices inside.
Two of her instructors are having a disagreement about her. She’s taken aback and just stands there, listening.
Mr. Schmidt is implying that he will not act, that it makes no difference who her father is, and that Martha is the clear winner. Joann’s father is on the Board of Directors and owns the only business in town, according to Mr. Boone, so they could concoct an excuse. She also hears her Mexican heritage mentioned, as well as a threat to resign.
Mr. Schmidt dashes away, oblivious to Martha. She waits until she is calm before entering the classroom to retrieve her stuff. She has no recollection of the rest of the day.
That night, Martha sobs silently.
She is summoned to the principal’s office the next day. He seemed to be uneasy. He informs Martha that the policy has changed this year, and the scholarships jacket will now cost $15. If she is unable to pay, the jacket will be given to the next person in line.
She promises to inform her granddad and contact him. On the drive home, she sobs.
Martha enters the bean field in search of her Grandpa. She explains what’s going on. He inquires as to the significance of the scholarship jacket.
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She claims it is awarded to the student who has worked hard for it. They are both aware of the situation. Before she leaves, he informs her that if the jacket is paid for, it is not a scholarship jacket.
She’s enraged, but she knows Grandpa is correct.
When Martha goes to meet the principal the next day, she is depressed. She informs him that her grandfather is unable to pay. He inquires as to why, claiming that he has sufficient funds. She explains why this is so. She goes on to say that they’ll have to give Joann the jacket.
She is stopped by the principal before she leaves. They’ll make an exception for her and give her the jacket, he says. Martha is overjoyed and expresses her gratitude to him.
When she encounters Mr. Schmidt later, he compliments her on her achievement. She wraps her arms around him.
On the walk home, Martha bursts out laughing. She dashes over to her grandfather’s field to inform him. She spends a few minutes working with him before informing him of the good news.
He gives her a shoulder pat and wipes the sweat from his brow. He instructs her to see whether her grandmother requires assistance with supper.
Martha gives him a friendly grin. She is not deceived. She dashes joyfully towards the home.
Themes in The Scholarship Jacket by Marta Salinas
Taking a Stand for What’s Right
This is the prevailing theme in “The Scholarship Jacket” by Marta Salinas.
Mr. Schmidt, Grandpa, and, eventually, Martha are three characters who take a principled stand for what is right.
When Martha overhears Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Boone arguing, we first learn about the conspiracy against her. Mr. Schmidt is passionate about not depriving Martha of her prize.
He is unconcerned about Joann’s father. He realizes the inequity of attempting to take what Martha has worked hard for because she is a vulnerable target because she is Mexican and comes from a poor background. He has threatened to resign as a result of it.
Grandpa is the next figure to recognize the larger issue. He draws Martha’s attention to it by inquiring about the significance of the scholarship jacket, which she has both earned and received.
The question is not whether he can or should pay the money; it is whether it should be paid at all.
No, that is not the case. Purchasing the scholarship jacket goes against everything the garment stands for. Paying for the jacket would not make up for the wrongdoing.
Martha is initially perplexed by the greater principle at work. She’s “desperately hoping he’d say [she] could have the money” when she informs Grandpa she’s in risk of losing her prize.
This appears to make sense on the surface. She’s worked hard for this award and doesn’t want it to go to someone else.
She realizes Grandpa is correct after their chat. She’s still enraged and disappointed, but she recognizes that paying for something she earned makes no sense.
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Questions from The Scholarship Jacket Written by Marta Salinas
Go through some important questions and answers in this short story.
1. When Martha states, “Those were the days of belief and innocence,” what exactly does she mean?
Throughout the novel, Martha isn’t completely aware of the plot against her. The story is being told by an older Martha.
Martha “knew what it would be about” when she was summoned to the principal’s office. She is surprised and claims she hadn’t expected that when he tells her the Board amended its policy and the jacket would cost fifteen dollars. This is because she was anticipating Joann to be informed that the jacket would be delivered to her.
Martha is unaware that she is being told exactly what she wants to hear; it’s just not in the way she wants to hear it. The principal can’t just inform Martha that the school is going to give a girl with a powerful father preferential treatment.
Martha’s feelings after Grandpa declines her request are related to this. She’s a woman with a “I was furious with the Board… Why did they have to modify the rules right before my chance to win the jacket? Those were the days of innocence and belief.”
Because she now understands everything, a more mature Martha speaks to “days of belief and innocence.” The Board made no changes to the guidelines, and the jacket was not actually fifteen dollars. That was all a ruse to keep the conspiracy against her hidden from her.
2. Why does the principal overrule the principal’s decision and give Martha the jacket?
The principal’s guilt appears to have overtaken him.
He “appeared uncomfortable and unhappy” when he initially spoke to Martha, refusing to look her in the eyes and fidgeting with his papers.
After Martha responds, “I guess you’ll just have to give it to Joann,” he changes his mind. The principal lacks the will to continue when Martha says that she knows they want Joann to get it. His embarrassment appears to drive him to save face and make things right now that the conspiracy has been exposed.
3. When Grandpa sends Martha into the house at the end of the story, she is “not tricked.” What exactly does this imply?
It’s possible that Grandpa swiftly sends Martha away because he doesn’t want her to notice how upset he is.
He took out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his brow just before dismissing her. It’s possible he took it out to dry his tears.
Even if this reading is erroneous, it appears likely that Martha’s not being fooled alludes to Grandpa’s emotions. He smiled and patted her on the shoulder without saying anything. Martha is well aware that he is happier for her than he is ready to admit.