98 pages 3 hours read

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2012

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Character Analysis

Aristotle Mendoza

Aristotle (or Ari) wants to know who he is. He seeks answers from his parents, but their silence offers no help. His turbulent emotions are hidden beneath his cool, quiet exterior. He tries to make his life simple because “everything inside […] felt so confusing” (202). He suffers from bad dreams about Dante, his father, and his older brother, Bernardo. After saving Dante from an oncoming car, Ari’s reluctance to accept the title of hero shows his humble nature, dislike of attention, and embarrassment at the sacrifice he performed for Dante.

Ari is deeply loyal to those he loves and constantly worries about Bernardo. His brother’s absence makes Aristotle feel an even greater burden as “the only son […] in a Mexican family” (93). He thinks that the reason he is “melancholy”—as Gina calls him—is because he’s “missed [Bernardo] all [his] life” (206). He is constantly torn between fulfilling his own desires and being who he believes people expect him to be.

Through Dante’s influence, Ari learns to explore his feelings and articulate himself. He becomes interested in writing and enjoys his English class. He is able to escape his personal chaos through the written word, and this realization is assisted by Dante’s love for poetry.