Love in L.A. by Dagoberto Gilb: Power, Gender, and Reality

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Love in L.A. by Dagoberto Gilb: Power, Gender, and Reality

This essay will analyze the short story “Love in L.A.” by Dagoberto Gilb. It will discuss themes of power dynamics, gender roles, and the blurred lines between fantasy and reality in the context of romantic encounters in Los Angeles. The piece will explore character development and societal commentary. You can also find more related free essay samples at PapersOwl about Feminism.

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Summary of “Love in L.A.”

“Love in L.A.” is a short story in the third person written by Dagoberto Gilb, published in 1986. This story is about two people who get into a car accident and how one of the characters lies to escape a severe situation. Jake is the main character who bumps into Mariana’s Toyota, which he finds very attractive and starts introducing himself. While all this is happening, he gets her number, she writes down his license plate number, and he watches her leave as if he let go of a long love.

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The overall view of this short story is how realistic it is based on the characters, setting, and dominance.

This short story is not necessarily your typical “love” story. There is nothing like getting picked up by white horses, riding to a sunset with your partner, and living happily ever after. It is the opposite, with the setting being very realistic. Therefore, Jake is stuck where it is messy, overly crowded, and muddy. Oh yes, L.A.! Being stuck in L.A. traffic from bumper to bumper can make you frustrated. In addition, the story begins with Jake, who is lost in his mind. Jake is driving and fantasizing about rich cars and a luxurious lifestyle that takes him away from the smoky and dirty Hollywood freeway. As he dreams about all those, he finds himself bumping into a Toyota before him.

Feminist Analysis and Themes of Loneliness

At first, Jake thinks he can get away, but once he sees the owner, he decides to stop. The owner is a woman whose name is Mariana. He shakes hands with her when she exits her car, and they start introducing one another. Jake cannot get himself together and act professionally, so he uses pickup lines to smooth talk to walk away from the situation he just caused. Therefore, we can find one critical approach here: feminist criticism. Jake thinks she will not be too worried about her car, so he can easily distract her by calling her “beautiful.” However, that does not happen, and she ends up with his license plate number. So that emphasizes how the majority of men take advantage of women and disturb them by lying, calling them names, etc.

This story could also be humorous, along with the characters’ personalities. Jake’s personality is easily relatable to teenage people. For example, getting in a car accident, falling in love, and smooth-talking. In addition to that, loneliness is another theme in this story. In his personality and behavior, we can see he has been lonely for some time. Thus, the hint comes from his unprofessional lines: “I am kinda hoping so, just so it takes a little more time, and we can talk some. Or else you can give me your phone number now, and I will not have to lay my regular b.s. On you to get it later” (pg.2).

Another part of his loneliness that Grib describes is “Her hand felt so warm and soft he felt like he had been kissed” (pg.3). Jake seems to crave love and humanity. However, he does not get that from Mariana because she is not “in love” with him as much as he is. Though she smiles back at his comments and has conservation, she is not entirely interested in him. This situation of loneliness can also correspond with irony. The concept is that everyone is looking for love.

Marxist Critique and Character Contrasts

More critical approaches can be found in this short story, but Marxism is another criticism I came across. This criticism can reflect class struggle and materialism. As Gilb describes Jake, he may be in his twenties and does not have a nice car or a job. He has an old car and needs more money to upgrade to a new one. Jake also has yet to pay for his license plate, probably because he has no income. So he seems like a lazy and relaxed human being; otherwise, he would have a job and the money to buy anything he wants, especially a car. Jake is a typical young man who fantasizes about the good stuff in life but does not go after it. However, on the other hand, Mariana has an everyday L.A. life. She symbolizes purity, is very honest, has money, lives with her parents, and seems like an innocent woman who still is not married.

Moreover, Mariana has a brand-new car that her dad bought for her, and she knows how to save her income. She is more mature, very wise, and has more class than Jack does. Therefore, we see the character differences between these two and how they are opposite. Humanity will continue, but in a different way, as is shown in this story.

In conclusion, this short story by Gilb provides a unifying point around the plot, point of view, characters, symbols, and other story elements. The theme of this story could be “The unexpected can happen.” How can you meet the love of your life in a car accident you caused? Another theme could be that you can never trust individuals. For example, Jake’s life was a lie, so he was always alone.


  1. Gilb, D. (1986). Love in L.A. Origin Press.
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Love in L.A. by Dagoberto Gilb: Power, Gender, and Reality. (2023, Aug 28). Retrieved from