Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Love (or lack thereof) in El Barrio - Young Romance's "The Wall Between Us"

"The Wall Between Us"
Young Romance #175 (October 1971)
Pencils: Art Saaf, Inks: Vince Colletta

This evening's story, "The Wall Between Us" from Young Romance #175 (October 1971) is a romance tale filled with rejection and confusion for leading lady, Ruth Hagan who works as a social worker in "El Barrio." In an effort to help the (in her eyes) downtrodden Ramirez family, Ruth takes a special interest in the family's handsome son, Carlos. Carlos, however, wants nothing to do with Ruth and her charitable ways.

In an effort to forget about Carlos and his disdain for her profession, Ruth calls up her boyfriend, Win, to hang out. While Win kisses her, all Ruth can think about is Carlos. Win senses her distance and inquires as to its source. She tries to brush it off as a problem with a "client," but Win knows that she is referring to Carlos -- he has obviously come up before in their conversations. Win makes his feelings about Carlos heard loud and clear when he says, "He's just like the rest -- they're lazy trouble-makers..." Ruth sticks up for Carlos and contends that he only needs to be given a chance.

In an effort to patch things up with Carlos, Ruth heads back to his neighborhood. She offers him some money as a "loan" -- worsening the situation.

It becomes apparent in a dream sequence that not only does Ruth want to help Carlos; she wants him to view her as worthy of his affection.

Not one to give up, Ruth attempts to make her dream a reality. The next day, she ambushes Carlos in his apartment lobby and declares her undying love for him. He basically tells her to scram, but she continues to go on and on that her love is there for the taking. Carlos has a different take on her declaration of adoration...

Carlos tells Ruth to get on with her life -- he has found work and he plans to move on with his. Ruth unenthusiastically goes back to Win who tries to make her forget about Carlos. But Ruth can't forget and when Carlos calls a few months later to invite her to a celebratory party, she jumps at the chance to see him again. Literally, she jumps on Carlos, and wraps her arms around him as she exalts, "Oh, Carlos! It's been so long! I knew you wouldn't forget me! Say you love me!" But Carlos doesn't love her -- still. He invited her to the party in hopes that she would help celebrate in his success. With a friendly peck on the cheek, Carlos leaves Ruth with the following advice:

"Hold out your hand to my people, Ruth.
That's all they ask, really. Goodbye -- and good luck!"

Confused and alone, Ruth stands on the stoop of the Ramirez family's building. Suddenly, Win drives up and offers not only a ride, but an explanation. It was he who gave Carlos a job in an effort to pull him away from Ruth. Only, Win wasn't expecting Carlos to excel and he also wasn't expecting to find himself realizing what a "bigoted fool" he had been.

And as a random officer of the law looks on, Win and Ruth reconnect and revel in the gift that Carlos Ramirez gave them -- the gift of love.

Though I appreciate "The Wall Between Us" and its attempt to include diversity and an admirable (and rare) Hispanic character, I am not sure about the story's effectiveness in conveying racial tensions of mid-century America. Carlos seems to be more of a catalyst for a convenient happy ending between Ruth and Win than a primary focus. Stories such as "Black + White = Heartbreak!" and "Full Hands - Empty Heart!" in my opinion, were more effective in eliciting the heart-wrenching emotions associated with love and loss. I would really like to hear your thoughts, though -- were you moved by "The Wall Between Us," or not so much? Please share!

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