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To Be, or Not To Be, That is the Feminists Question

The House of Spirits is a widely recognized book about feminism and not letting the ‘man’ hold you down. However, I feel that the book can very differently interpreted. We assume every female character in the book is a die-hard feminist however, there is one character who while had her moments I feel was not a feminist. Clara del Valle was a silent woman who was very in tune with herself, other people’s feelings be damned. While these actions were never intentional, they effected almost every character in the book. Be Clara falls into her silence due to pregnancy, or anger with Esteban, she did it in defense, never to ‘right the man’. This is not a topic I could find many if any backing too, just people placing Clara in the group due to who her family was. I want to explain why I feel Clara del Valle was indeed, NOT a feminist.

 

Clara was a silent yet steady character for the whole story, her presence known in almost all of the characters she met due to a lasting impact the clairvoyant had on those around her. She was kind and caring to those who showed her the same respect, or that respect to the others around her. When Clara fell silent the first time it was due to watching her deceased sister be fondled by a physician’s assistant. This is my first argument that Clara was never a feminist. If Clara was a feminist, and held those values as a young child, why did she fall silent instead of speaking out about the occurrences she saw? My Next point is the next time Clara spoke, offering almost demanding, that she be married to Esteban. No woman who holds the normal values a feminist’s holds would offer herself to any man. As a final example on things Clara did to give evidence she was never a feminist, was when her and her husband fell out of sorts, and she fell silent once more. This to me was a huge showing of Clara’s true feelings

 

I feel Clara’s silence was brought on by a need to protect herself in a way she felt nobody else could. After witnessing her sister be violated in a way that no one could ever take back or apologize for, think of how scared she was from that incident. How she chose to coup was to cut off her voice, cut off any chance of having to relive those moments through words. She does this one many occasions too. Such as when she falls pregnant with Blanca. To handle the stress and the pain of being a new mother on her way, and so very close she was, to birthing a child can put a lot of stress on any ones mind. She blocks off her voice to silence herself and the world around her. I don’t believe this to be sticking it to the man. I believe it to be Clara protecting herself.

 

Now I can give one instance when maybe her falling into one of her episodes may have looked like sticking it to her husband, Esteban. Now while she may have given scenes of feminism she was once more, standing her ground and protecting her. When Esteban would no longer listen she took away the things she knew he cherished, Her voice, her body, even her kooky happenings with the clairvoyant’s events. By completely cutting him off of any action to do with her, that may have been feminism in its rawest form, however it once again goes to show the length at which she’s going to go to hold together her soul, her heart, her mind. I feel Clara avoided these feelings because she didn’t see the point in having friends if the undead spoke to her. Why bother with ever feelings vulnerable or scared again when you could cut yourself off from the world and be alone to any thoughts.

 

With both sides in the open I feel people can begin to see Clara for who she was, a strong independent woman, who didn’t need to prove that she didn’t need no man. She was strong and while her couping mechanisms had similarities to how a feminist worked, I don’t feel the intent behind them is to be equal to Esteban, I think its more so to do with being equal to herself. Maybe if she had grown from what happened to her sister she would a very strong del Valle feminist, just like her mother. I also think that exploring her powers gave her an insight that lead her to a higher plane than being equal to any male. Clara was a wonderful example of how you can stand up for yourself, but not be a feminist.

 

García-Johnson, Ronie-Richele. “The Struggle for Space: Feminism and Freedom in ‘The House of the Spirits.’” Revista Hispánica Moderna, vol. 47, no. 1, 1994, pp. 184–193. www.jstor.org/stable/30203383

Frick, Susan R. “Memory And Retelling: The Role Of Women In La Casa De Los Espíritus.” Journal Of Iberian & Latin American Studies 7.1 (2001): 27-41. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Jenkins, Ruth Y. “Authorizing Female Voice and Experience: Ghosts and Spirits in Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and Allende’s The House of the Spirits.” MELUS, vol. 19, no. 3, 1994, pp. 61–73. www.jstor.org/stable/467872.

Levine, Linda Gould. “Weaving Life into Fiction.” Latin American Literary Review, vol. 30, no. 60, 2002, pp. 1–25. www.jstor.org/stable/20119878.

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The Adventures of Rosa and an Axolotl

I seem to be utterly obsessed with this book, so I want to compare Rosa from The House of Spirits and the main character from the short story Axolotl. Each character is similar and different in their own way, in their silence as well as their obsessions. I want to go into depth about why I feel this way, with how Rosas personality and the main character’s decisions coincide, and resemble the same situations that the character’s face, their internal issues anyways. Ill compare what I consider to be their similarities in life obsessions, in moments of silence, as well as death.

Rosa and the main character in Axolotl have their own obsessions that were in my opinion rather weird. I mean come on, an amphibian that is perpetually stuck in water even though salamanders are primarily land creatures. Then a piece of cloth, on that was never put down and cherished upon, filled with creatures that are strictly in the imagination of the people who created them. Now you may wonder, why is this bad? How does is affect anything to do with the book? My answer is rather simple. Rosa never learned any skills other than how to embroider. No one pushed her to be a wife, or learn wifely duties, like gardening, or how to care for a child, or be a woman of substance. Really this happened because she was so beautiful no one knew how to handle it, no one wanted to fight for her until Esteban came along, and even then she showed no interest in being or wanting to become interested in being with him She literally embroiders mystical creatures onto a cloth for a living. She never craved anything more because she out herself into a space that was her own. She never needed anyone else. While Rosas obsession was healthier, and didn’t make her lose her mind, it still put her off in a world that separated her from the rest of society. The main character in Axolotl literally lost his consciousness to the creature. Became so ingrained with how the creature lived, and how they lived, he convinced himself that that was a life he wanted to live. A life he craved, and literally made a world where he was the Axolotl and was no longer himself. He disregarded his responsibilities and his previous life to be a creature that is stuck in a tank that is silent, and cannot be near or touch other beings in the tank.

With that being said I feel like the main character in Axolotl faced a worse fate than Rosa did. Rosa suffered death due to her father’s political cravings, however she fell ill and passed away. She didn’t have to spend the rest of her life in total solitude and loneliness. That’s what happened to the character in Axolotl, he became trapped in an existence he could never escape. He was forever lost in a world he believed the Axolotl inhabited. What if in a few months he begins to change his mind? What if he doesn’t want to be alone, and be in a world of total solitude? He could never change it, he chose his path, he chose to live as an Axolotl. He could never take back the life he once lived.

Each character faced something that was detrimental to who they were. Rosa and the poisoned alcohol, and the main character in Axolotl, his need to be away from those who didn’t understand his want for solitude. Even their obsessions can relate to each other. Rosa was consumed with just embroidering she never wanted to do anything else. Then the man in the Axolotl in the beginning was simply enthralled with the Axolotls physical appearance, their actions and motives. After that it’s all downhill for him.

Both characters had a great deal of silence to handle, and I feel like this came into light when these obsessions were created. I feel like Rosa’s lack of pushing in her life due to her beauty was why she basically shut herself off to the world. Why she felt like she didn’t have to try and advance as something, anything. With men falling over her beauty but not wanting to be with her because of it, I can only imagine that that might have some type of sting on a person’s mind. While the man in Axolotl simply didn’t have anything he felt was worth living for. He didn’t want to live his life anymore, he wanted something more. He found that more in the way the Axolotl lived. Its self-dependence, the way the Axolotls co-existed. He felt like their life was better than the one he lived. That’s why he came to the aquarium every day. He stared at them every day. He did it to understand the creature locked into a tank, how it could look so content. Because he wanted to be content.

Sister Envy

Growing up with a sister like Rosa was fun, from an outsider’s view. Rosa was tall, and beautiful, with a silent disposition that left her mysterious, and a sight to behold by family and strangers. With long silk like hair, and an exotic stunning face, living in the shadow of her beauty was not something young Clara hadn’t grown used too. Since Clara was rather unremarkable, compared to her sister anyway, with semi-short brown hair adorned on an round face that held casual features. It was a normal occurance for Clara to say something rather intelligent, and to be ignored or looked at with a incredulous stare. However, when Rosa would say something remotely related to the topic it was a common that she was fawned over for the comment. With that Clara tried to not say anything unless spoken too, which was hard when at times the words would just fall from her mouth. It was never a good time in the del Valle house when those words lipped past her lips. Or at least for little Clara it wasn’t.

 

Rosa never knew that she made Clara feel the way she did, for she was oblivious to most everything. She simply didn’t notice the correlation between her actions and when her sister would fall silent or lash out with hurtful words. It was just something that never crossed her mind, mainly all that did cross her mind was her embroidering. So when Clara would lash out, it was a confusing moment for Rosa. Not understanding what she has done, or what was going through her sister’s mind, not that she ever stopped to ask either. With how many time Clara did spew violent words out at her older sister or the family in general, you would think that someone would notice, or perhaps even care, but no one did. The Del Valle family just assumed it was Clara being young and not knowing how to express whatever she was feeling. Partly that was true, and another part was Clara knew exactly what she was feeling, she just didn’t understand why she felt that way.

 

An example of this happening was a rather simple conversation over dinner, where the whole family sat down to ‘bond’ as their mother Nieva had stated. Clara was following the conversation with as much interest as a young girl could have. She was currently listening to her mother go on about how she was interested in pulling the current roses out of the back garden to implant tulips instead. She was extremely insistent on the flowers being removed, and replaced. Clara looked up from her plate and responded before her father could. ” I love the roses mother, they compliment the house perfectly, the color matches the dusty shade the house trim is, almost like what the bible says the devils coloring would be!”. With that statement the somewhat full table turned to stare at Clara with little belief such a vulgar statement had come out of the small girls lips. Severo was slowly turning red in the face, mouth open as if he wanted to speak but was a loss of words to respond to his youngest daughter. Then almost as if Rosa had fallen out of her stupor she slowly looked up from her plate with a soft smile, staring off at the wall past her parents, she spoke softly. “Maybe I could learn a new stitch for my next embroidery project.”, then with that statement she went back to focusing on her food, and carried on slowly pecking at the food that was adorned on the glass surface. Severo automatically turned to his oldest when she spoke, and his eyes softened from his previous rage. ” Well then we will be keeping the roses, for inspiration. Love,” he turned to his wife and spoke ” maybe you can plant tulips out front, in that spacious area around the front steps.” Their mother had the most serene look on her face as she looked loving at Rosa. “Why yes dear. I do believe that keeping them is a wonderful idea. Her work is always so beautiful.” The parents then tried avidly to reengage Rosa in an conversation, which was proving to be very unsuccessful. Clara stared at her parents flabbergasted at her parents that something Rosa said that wasn’t even related to what they spoke of had impacted their decision. Clara slowly felt her anger rise, how dare they. How could they simply over look what she had said, it was intelligent it related to

 

what they were saying, and they completely over looked her. They completely ignored her, and if Rosa hadn’t of spoke up they would have yelled at her. How was any of this fair? It didn’t make sense. She tried so hard to participate but they simply over looked her. Over looked. She slammed her fork down, which had stopped conversation instantly and she stood angrily. “Keep the ugly roses. No one cares!” And stormed off to her room. Clara’s parents looked at each other confused, and then back to where Clara had just stormed out of the room. Their dinner was silent for the rest of the evening, except for the few sparing chuckles Rosa made from her own train of thought.

 

Clara didn’t understand why when her father, Severo, over looked her and flaunted to his friend and colleagues about Rosa, it upset her so much. She reasoned for many years that he wasn’t overlooking her, it was simply her imagination. Even though she had past experiences that felt very much so like being over looked. It wasn’t until they were all sitting around the living room Clara truly felt like her father put her on the back burner, her opinions, knowledge, even presence wasn’t wanted. When they were showing off the embroidery project they worked on together, all Severo would acknowledge is what Rosa did, even though the work put in was equivalent for both girls. The small very detailed cloth was the product of Clara dealing with Rosa constant silence, her undeniable need to ignore everyone and anything when she was in her sitting room with her needle and thread. Clara was fairly certain that Rosa would ignore an earthquake is she was in her sitting room when the earth moved. Even with those wonderful feats on Clara’s part no one seemed to notice. No matter what Clara did to get recognition for her work on the fabric as well her father would pin her with an uninterested stare, then return to praising Rosa. In that moment Clara decided to be her own person, and be open with her words, feelings, and to not let what Rosa does, define her. While it was easier said than done, and when Clara went silent when Rosas presence was no longer in the home. She had grown up enough to know that sometimes saying what you felt wasn’t worth what one would receive in a response.

Woman On the Verge of Living In Spirit Houses

Woman when these works were made were oppressed by many adversity and several different roles in how a woman should act or what they should do. Females in both The House of Spirits, and Women on a Verge of a Nervous Breakdown were an real diamond in the rough due to political times. Women who faced stereotypical roles in their society struggled just as similarly as women in today’s society. However the tradition of males is still just as or common as it is for women. Women on the Verge of A Nervous break down showed how women can over come, and be strong in situations. Then the women in House of Spirits showed strength in not holding their men to a pedestal and being able to live without them.

“Crazy” has been a universal accusation towards women, and men feeling this way because everyone handles things differently. Women in The House of Spirits such as Clara and Blanca may be a little closer to a stage of crazy then characters such as Pepe and Candela are viewed as crazy for not being ‘boy crazy’. Even when faced with the oppression of the man. No not that ‘man’. Just a regular man. Both sets of women over came these situations created by a man.

Though to say that women were the only crazies would be unfair to the men. Most men in both pieces of work held their little bit of crazy. So I feel men and women can be crazy together.  And another resemblance to the men in both works that are normally labeled a female trait, is the desperation the men have to hold all of the women attention and not getting it. So they all acted out in some way. Even in such different situations I feel we were shown these books to read and enjoy due to seeing women strength in what most could consider weakness.

 

Nunn, Gary. “The Feminisation of Madness Is Crazy | Mind Your Language.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 2012. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.

 

 

 

The House of Spirits

When assigned this book i was very hesitant. I’ve never came across an assigned piece of literature that I had enjoyed. So when I began to read The House of Spirits by Allende I was pleasantly shocked. I was engaged, and genuinely enjoying the novel, then as the book went along it became more difficult to swallow. I don’t claim to be a feminist however, when Esteban began to coup with Rosa’s death, I had trouble flipping onto the next page. As I continue to read I grow accustomed to Allende’s blunt writing style. I’ve only read one part of the book that effected me on an emotional level and that was when Barrabas was killed (Allende 102). I will openly admit I cried like a baby. The House of Spirits is filled with communism, sexism, and the supernatural. I feel like each theme plays its own part in each character of the book. However it can be said vise versa as well that the characters are important to each theme. I’m very excited to finish the book and understand it as a whole!

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Pan’s Labyrinth

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This movie was a strong comparison between Ofelia’s reality, and what she wanted her reality to be. She created the love for what Faun had told her, and the ideas of fantasies due to the trauma she felt and dealt with. Even though in the end she had to face her reality for what it truly was, she struggled to deal with her surrounding environment. Her step father, who showed no compassion, and he mother who was very wrapped up in her problematical pregnancy. Guillermo del Toro, did a wonderful job in making us question Ofelia’s reality, or in a bigger sense, our reception of her reality. In all the movie was to show the harsher side of what an imagination can do to a child.