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Friday, March 30, 2007

Women Hollering Creek

Analysis on Sandra Cisneros’ “Woman Hollering Creek

The story tells us about the life of a young woman named Cleofilas who loves watching telenovelas before getting married. This hobby makes her dream that she would live a life like the main actress in the telenovelas; a poor country girl who works for a wealthy family and the good-looking son of the family falls in love with her. “Cleofilas thought her life would have to be like that, like a telenovela…” (p. 226)

In telenovelas, although life is full of “all kinds of hardship of the heart, separation and betrayal” (p. 220), being loving all the time will make someone (in this case, especially a woman) survive in life and get happiness at the end. When getting married with Juan Pedro, Cleofilas dreams to have a similar life. She even does not pay attention much to what her father says to her in the hubbub of parting, “I am your father, I will never abandon you.” (p. 119). She thinks that love between a man and a woman is more beautiful than love between parents and children. How when a man and a woman love each other, sometimes love sours. But a parent’s love for a child, a child’s for its parents, is another thing entirely. (p. 220). Gradually Cleofilas realizes that love between a man and a woman can diminish, especially if both sides do not try hard to maintain their love, moreover when of them starts hurting the other. Cleofilas knows that men are selfish creatures, they do not treat women lovingly—why should women be loving to them? She sees some examples in her real life—not only in telenovelas. Her neighbor, Soledad, has been left by her husband without knowing where he goes; Maximiliano—one of her husband’s mate—is said to have killed his wife in an ice-house brawl; her own husband has slapped her many times until her mouth bleeds without knowing what makes her husband treat her that way. The bitterness she finds in her life makes Cleofilas aware that happiness she often sees in telenovelas is only a dream. “… now the episodes got sadder and sadder. And there were no commercials in between for comic relief. And no happy ending in sight.” (p. 226)

Observing what happened in this short story between women and their husbands, I remember some radical feminists—for example Mary Daly—who opine that marriage is the source of gender inequality. Once a couple is married, the husband things that his wife has become his property so that he is free to do whatever he wants to do toward his wife; e.g. whether he wants to treat her lovingly or cruelly. Therefore, radical feminists think that to stop men’s oppression toward women and to reach gender equality, a woman is not supposed to marry a man, a woman must work to be economically independent. Women must improve sisterhood among themselves to help one another.

Therefore, I like to read the last part of the story when Cleofilas decides to leave her cruel husband. (He has taken Cleofilas away from her family and home country, and in the new country where Cleofilas knows no one—she even does not speak English, only Spanish—he does not treat her well!) her husband does not give her anything but babies (and miseries!!!). Cleofilas can run away from her husband with the help of two women who actually do not know her well, but they do know that Cleofilas needs their help. From Felice, a woman who gives her a ride to San Antonio, Cleofilas gets a valuable lesson that a woman does not need any man to survive. “ … she didn’t have husband” (p. 228). A woman can survive and do whatever she wants in this life without depending on man. It even makes a woman free from any kind of oppression in a marriage and she can do anything to her heart’s content.

A Paper in Contemporary American Culture
Yogya, March 2004

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

but while she is certainly better off than she was with the husband, is she better off than she was at the start. laughing as she crosses the creek in the end shows some self-realization, but is it enough to end up where she started? she laughs when she passes over the creek for the first time as well. that was also a feeling of freedom -- from home. why isn't the trip home just the trip away in reverse. i'm not sure she grew much more than an understanding that the world is not a telenovela, and that the boredom of her original home life might be all there is for her. am i missing something?

Nana Podungge said...

Dear Anonymous,

I am sorry for finding this comment of yours so late. But, as wise people say, better late than never. :)

Even though she ends up at the same point when she started, at least, she is a 'new' person now who views life more thoroughly than before she gets married. Marriage life is not as easy as what she usually sees in telenovelas. :)