English 1B – 1337
March 7, 2015
What Do I Know?
“Everything I Know” is from Act 2 Scene 8 of In The Heights. The scene opens to Usnavi and Nina going through an old box that belonged Abuela Claudia. At this point in the play Abuela Claudia has passed away due to complications with her heart. Usnavi and Nina reminisce while looking at old photos Abuela Claudia had taken. The main purpose of the song is to pay remembrance to Abuela Claudia. She touched everyone in the barrio with her kindness and compassion, and the entire neighborhood mourns her. While the song was made to remember Abuela Claudia, there is another purpose to the song. Through the entire play Nina, the singer of the song, is struggling with her decision to leave school, her song “Breathe” is dedicated to this issue. A main turning point in the play was a result of Nina deciding not to go back to school. Her parents decided to sell their business to help her pay for it, which caused an uproar within the community. Now as Nina goes through old pictures of her, Usnavi, and even Abuela Claudia, she asks herself if Abuela Claudia ever felt like she did. “Did her mother have a plan? Or did they just go? Did someone sit her down and say ‘Claudia, get ready to leave behind everything you know.’ Everything I know. What do I know?” (Act 2 Page 132). Nina knows how it feels to leave everything she knows in pursuit of a better future, and her connection to Abuela Claudia is a major part of the song.
The style of the song is soft, slow, and lyrical. Abuela Claudia has just died and the barrio is grieving. Nina’s songs throughout the play have had a similar feeling to them. “Breathe” and “Sunrise” are both very melodic and smooth. This genre fits in well with Nina’s personality. She is soft spoken, often calm, and a very thoughtful person, and these aspects are reflected within this song. She is struggling with her decision about school, and is lost, in a way, amongst all the turmoil. She sees the photos of Abuela Claudia as a young girl, and realizes that Claudia has had similar trouble and reacted with strength and courage, and this motivated Nina to do the same. I understand Nina’s troubles, I sympathize with her a lot, and I have felt the inspiration she has felt. She wants to prove herself to her family and neighbors, she wants to be the person they think she is. She’s had a good life but her parents want more for her. Similarly, Abuela Claudia’s mother wanted better for her daughter so they left everything they knew to come to America.
There are many questions that one can interpret from this song, but I believe the biggest is “What will Nina decide to do about school?” There are so many people…