"I'm an artist and I'm sensitive about my s***!"

Creative Commons License
Hypothetical Theological Illogic Scholastica [blog] by Gloria Steele is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Awakening Sinsuality in Kate Chopin & Elizabethan England

Gloria Steele


AP Lit/Comp

The Awakening Analysis

Gloria Steele


AP Lit/Comp

The Awakening Analysis

Edna Pontellier as another Virgin Queen

In Kate Chopin's The Awakening, protagonist Edna Pontellier is the endearing portrait of a woman refusing to conform. She invokes the archetypical Unclaimed Woman, sensual and uncompromising-- she is Mary Magdalene, she is Marilyn Monroe, she is Queen Elizabeth I. She frees herself, like the bird in the gilded cage (Chopin, 1), from the confines of soceital conventions. Once awakened, she submits only to her own passions and desires, she finds herself stripped of all stifling illusions and mindsets forced upon her from birth-- by religion, by family, by community. Like Queen Elizabeth I, Edna Pontellier is a woman who will submit to no man, who will not lay down and, although she is highly sensual, will not be degraded and demonized.

Edna Pontellier's journey in the novella begins with heavy symbolism and foreshadowing. The bird in the cage representing Edna, locked in the torment of inner division. In her Piece by Piece, the often brutally honest feminist singer-songwriter Tori Amos often uses the Mary Magdalene archetype to delienate the state most women-- particularly Christian-- are in, objectified and torn apart by the hands of the patriarchy. She explains how Christian women are taught to repress natural sexual passions and cut out their own voices to follow the example of the pious Virgin Mary, while the Magdalene is horribly distorted, turned into a whore, as many "strong women" are. How can we be divided? Tori asks, using her own signature colorful metaphors. How can we suffer "the ultimate pain-- division within the self, the soul from the body, the mind from the heart...the two Marys divided?" (Amos, 71) She uses the term "marrying the two Marys" to illustrate how women can bcome whole, how they can be both honorable and sensual without giving up their souls:

Traditional Christianity...gave us two characters: the Virgin Mary and the Magdalene. Of course, within the psyche they must be joined, not polarized for a Christian woman to feel whole. The Virgin Mary has been stripped of her sexuality but has retained her spirituality; the Magdalene has been stripped of her spirituality but has retained her sexuality. Each must have her wholeness...(64)

Edna is constantly surrounded by these polarized, divided beings who remind her of either one Mary or the other-- The Farival Twins, two young girls, "always clad in blue and white, the Virgin's colors, having been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin at their baptism"(Chopin, 23); the mournful lady in black, counting her beads, an impending shadow reminding or foretelling Edna of her sad future as a woman, alone, her husband dead, now free of being his possession though left without the youthful passions that burned before; the Spanish girl, Marqueita represents a form of sensuality, but it is a farce: she is fiery, tempestuous, a coquette thing passing from man to man, still objectified by them. Edna knows she does not aspire to end up like any of these women, she aspires that wholeness, that fulfillment of self-discovery.

Queen Elizabeth I, too, was a woman struggling for autonomy and sexual freedom in a man's world. She resolved from the beginning of her life, after discovering the truth about her mother, Anne Boelyn, having been murdered by her father. It is said that she promised herself and her childhood friends that she would never marry and, though they did not believe her at that time, she held that resolve her whole life. Although she later went on to become the Virgin Queen, this was in no way a circumcision of her full womahood-- this was not an acquiescence; she was not giving up her freedom or accepting the convention that being sexual was being less than a woman, nor was she saying her decision to set herself aside was making her more of a woman. Instead, her decision never to take a man, never to marry-- except to England itself-- and never to produce a child was the decision to make it universally understood that she was no one's object. She was still whole, she was still a sexual woman, a devestatingly powerful woman, however, she had an enormous strength of will to resist the temptation to even appear to, in sex or love, become a man's possession. She wanted no misunderstandings.

The parallels of Edna Pontellier and Queen Elizabeth go beyond the attitude or the rebellion. It is evident in the social circle they are both placed in. Edna Pontellier married, quite by accident, into high Creole soceity-- the world of unwavering, rigid morals and unquestionable female chastity. Pontellier has no illusions about someday becoming like the Creole women, she knows her passions are not theirs and she can never be content as a "mother-woman" (8) like Adele Ratignolle or the others. Creole soceity is a highly religious, highly Catholic world in which Edna readily admits, at least to herself, that she does not belong. She hides her feelings well; she "apprehended instinctively the dual life-- that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions" (13). This Catholic soceity mirrors the Catholic state Elizabeth grew up in, the Catholics-- including her half-sister Mary-- who sought her life to keep her, a Protestant, from taking the throne. It is arguable that Catholicism is the most rigid of Christian systems, which makes sense that the limitations implemented on its women would cause those like Edna and Queen Elizabeth to rebel as forcibly as they have.

Another interesting parallel between the two women is in the men they love-- Edna's Robert Lebrun and Elizabeth's beloved Lord Robert Dudley of Leicester. Besides the names, the two men are extremely devoted, though still conscious of the women's unattainablility. Robert, torn apart by his longing for Edna and his duty to the Creole code of honor never to covet a married man's wife, leaves Louisiana, leaves Edna, for Mexico in hopes that the distance will cure him and, in her absense, the love will somehow subside. Lord Robert, Elizabeth's close friend and fiery lover, held a decorative position in her court as Master of the Horse, only as a ploy to keep him by her side without suspicion, though many knew of the affair. Although he shared her bed many a night, and Elizabeth loved him immensely, she knew she could never marry him. She would not share her power, would not become his wife. It is reputed that she famously told him in court, "I will have one mistress here, and NO master!" which is echoed somewhat by Edna Pontellier to her Robert when they reunite in Madame Reisz's house:

You have been...wasting your time dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier setting me free! I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier's possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, "Here, Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours," I should laugh at you both. (108)

It is here that, although the love of her life is there in her arms, professing his love for her, she asserts her power and the fact that she will not pass from being her husband's possession to being his. Her affair with Alcee Arobin is another indication of this-- she is comfortable with him, knowing that he has no expectations or obligations to her and neither she of him. She knows that what they have is a simple understanding that, whatever transpires, it is not of love; there are no strings attatched. For a moment, after her first indiscretion, after their first kiss, Edna regrets that it is not love becuase, perhaps, it would be more justifiable. If she had the affair, had essentially left her husband for the love of another man, not just lust, it would be more honorable, nobler in a sense. She regrets that it "was not the kiss of love that brought this cup of life to her lips" (84) because some part of her would be more forgiving-- the conscience, the nobility in her, as defined by previous Creole Christian standards; the Virgin Mary part-- and perhaps soceity would too be more forgiving if this act had been out of love. But it wasn't. And in the end she knows it is better this way, for to love a man would be a sacrifice, would be handing herself over, would be laying down under his feet. So she is satisfied that she doesn't have to be anything to Alcee, that she is nothing of his and keeps her own identity. Just as Elizabeth, could never bring herself to marry her Robert of Leicester because she would not have him make a whore of her, or a wife because either title would reduce her to a Thing, a single Ideal, a being seperated like the two Marys.

During her Christ-like Last Supper, Edna Pontellier pulls out all the stops, turning her humble "pigeon house" into a grand dining hall, decked with all her husband's money could offer. She herself appears, like a goddess, like a queen, in all her glory, ascending to an almost divine state, her most regal before her death:

The golden shimmer of Edna's satin gown spread in rich folds on either side of her...There was something in her attitude, in her whole appearance when she leaned her head against the high-backed chair and spread her arms, which suggested the regal woman, one who rules, who looks on, who stands alone. (89)

To compare this heightened moment with either Elizabeth's coronation or her transformation, after the executions of those that threatened her throne and after her symbolic purification to Virgin status, would be equally appropriate.

Queen Elizabeth's coronation was indubitably a joyous event-- after all, she had narrowly escaped her own beheading at the hands of her sister for supposed treason against the Catholic church and allegated attempts to seixe the throne. She herself knew it was not mere luck or a sudden compassionate chage of heart in her sister, as she famously cried, "this is the Lord's doing; and it is marvelous in Our eyes." Edna's lover, Alcee Arobin calls the dinner a "coup d'etat" (85), which is fitting since, in a way, Edna's has overthrown a system-- the system of female subjegation; she has freed herself of the chains, the guilt and shame that too often accompanies women of confidence and sensuality.

Elizabeth thwarted her many enemies once again a few years later in successfully executing conspirators against her crown with her loyal advisor Walsingham. "I have rid England of her enemies," she tells him. "What do I do now?" It is here that she makes her transformation, giving her people something close to divinity, standing alone at her throne, set apart, as Edna stood at the head of her immaculate dinner table.

Edna's joining with the sea at the end is not a shameful condescension, it is not the act of her lying down to accept what the world tells her she is. It is neither a selfish act, leaving her children to suffer in her absence under her now tainted name. She gives her body to the sea, her only true home, just as Elizabeth gives her body to England and her people. Just as Elizabeth set her body aside, essentially letting it die to prove her ultimate feminine sovereignty, Edna Pontellier sacrifices her body to prove that she will be glorious and magnificent in herself, not allowing the world and it's constrained, limited views make her to be a base, corrupt thing. She is proving her merit-- by giving up her body she is letting the world know that she, too, is sovereign and only belongs to herself, and the waters, the Great Mother, honoring the Source. She is reborn in those waters, returning to the Womb, becoming a Virgin again.

Signifying and Placing Significance

Gloria Steele


The Making of Americans

Final Conference Paper

That we may know our names:”

A study of history in the American Experimental novel

The nursery rhyme and the book of science fiction might be more revolutionary than any number of tracts, pamphlets, manifestoes of the political realm.”

So says Ishmael Reed in his novel Mumbo Jumbo which Alan Friedman describes in his New York Times Book Review, a satire on the unfinished race between the races in America and throughout history…an unholy cross between the craft of fiction and witchcraft.”[1]

But what is the nursery rhyme, the science fiction? Things of fantasy-- that fantasy not necessarily flights of fancy,” mystical and bright as unicorns, but that fantasy as something formerly inconceivable, out of the ordinary, transcendent; above or beneath conventional imaginations or communications. It is the odd. The thing that is not normal” when normality is assumed to be something common or mainstream.” And the revolution of the nursery rhyme or the science fiction lies in its revelation; its revelation lies in its negation and/or refutation of the normal. This negation is silence. Nonsense, fantasy, things that are outside normality-- silence. Gibberish? Mumbo Jumbo? All silence.

Ihab Hassan, in his study of postmodern literature, The Dismemberment of Orpheus, explains the role of “silence” in revealing the problems of the limitations of traditional languages, accepted languages, and historical master narratives, accepted history:

The negative, then, informs silence; and silence is my metaphor of a language that expresses, with harsh and subtle cadences, the stress in art, culture, and consciousness…the language of silence conjoins the need both of autodestruction and self-transcendence. (Hassan, 12)

Ishamael Reed in Mumbo Jumbo and Mark Z. Danielewski in Only Revolutions consciously use this nonsense language, this silence to defy conventional relationships of literary form and historical narrative.

Why is this nonsense of the negative considered silence? Because the so-called nonsensical syntax and form these authors employ as their method of communication is unlike accepted languages; their language is a language uncommon and seemingly sacrilegious and incomprehensible. These anti-languages…that accuse common speech”[2] used by Reed and Danielewski illustrate their own means of challenging inherited tradition, historical perspectives given and accepted by the masses blindly-- Reed by giving history back to the Black Man, satirizing and belittling the white man’s history that, twisted and corrupt, has been accepted by the world; Danielewski by forcing readers to question how much importance they give the personal, individual history as opposed to a collective history and vice versa.

Let’s imagine for a moment. Scenario: the African or Asian, speaking to an Englishman who will soon exploit him is not heard; he is “silent” in that his foreign language is not understood. Thus, not being understood is to some extent the same as not being heard. The Englishman will proceed, in this silence, to take advantage, to use his lack of comprehending their language as an excuse to force his own upon them-- the laws of the African or the Asian will not be heeded; the rules of their religions and societal constructs are not compatible with the Englishman’s but he will assume so. The Englishman, not hearing, imperceptive, will continue in his irreverence. Taking his victims, he will force his language upon them and his history.

This is what has been done. And this is what Ishmael Reed and his Mumbo Jumbo set out to correct. His aim is to return history to the black race, giving an alternative to the commonly implemented perspective that places the white man, the black and Asian man’s captor and plunderer, on top-- hailed as the originator, the supreme-- while anyone else is thought of as primitive and inferior, indeed, even the men who came before, who knew time and space and light before, the African, the Asian.

The group of art-nappers” Reed names the Mu’tafikah consider it their duty to return stolen treasures of Africa, Asia, and Original America (before the Europeans landed) to their former homes, in the hands of their people and not in the white man’s art exhibits. The Mu’tafikah make it their duty to steal back what was stolen before, to restore what had been razed: Robin Hooding the original history of the nations before the Europeans’ plundering. As Berbelang puts it, “we would send their loot back to where it was stolen from and await the rise of Shango, Shiva, and Quetzacoatl, no longer a label on a cheap bottle of wine but strutting across the sacred cities…like a proud cock” (Reed, 89). These Mu’tafikah are in opposition toThe Wallflower Order,” the army devoted to guarding the booty…because if these treasures got into the wrong hands’ (the countries from which they were stolen) there would be renewed enthusiasm for the Ikons of the aesthetically victimized civilizations” (15). The Mu’tafikah seek to restore and liberate: to restore the culture stolen by whites (and contorted—as convenient-- to suit the unhearing, the irreverent, the blind who, without understanding the spirituality, distort and strip that culture through attempting to appropriate the mysteries of it within Western/Christian thought: impossible because Western/Christian thought is incompatible with what they’ve stolen and have tried to adopt in kitschy fads, having lost all meaning) and liberate the people who themselves, having been forced to accept the Christian thought have forgotten the old ways and lost the soul, the joy, the ecstasy and spontaneity that plagues” 1920s America as the Jes Grew” so-called epidemic.

Jes Grew is the spirit of the Diaspora, unable to be contained, to be restricted, to be killed or even described or explained, mass-produced and adopted and worn by the uncomprehending like today’s Che Guevera t-shirts, having lost significance by irreverent reproduction and dilution, filtering through Western ideology that is its direct opposition. Poet Nathan Brown embodies this lost soul, this repression of heritage, the attempt at the duality or coexistence of Christianity with the older Diasporic faiths that fails, the compromise that is a denial. Brown was serious about his Black Christ, however absurd that may sound, for Christ is so unlike African loas and Orishas, in so many essential ways, that this alien becomes a dangerous intruder to the Afro-American mind, an unwelcome gatecrasher into Ife, home of spirits” (97) When this Nathan Brown asks a Hoodoo priest, Benoit Battraville, how to catch Jes Grew, he is faced with the impossibility of trying to restrict-- and disrespect-- the power of it by turning it into something able to spring forth on demand, when convenient, for show or fun:

The Americans do not know the names of the long and tedious list of dieties and rites as we know them. Shorthand is what they know so well. They know this process for they have synthesized the HooDoo of VooDoo. Its bleeblop essence; they’ve isolated the unknown factor which gives the loas their rise. Ragtime. Jazz. Blues. The new thang. That talk you drum from your lips. Your style. What you have here is an experimental art for that all of us believe bears watching. So don’t ask me how to catch Jes Grew. Ask Louis Armstrong. Bessie Smith, your poets, your painters, your musicians, ask them how to catch it. Ask those people who be shaking their tambourines impervious of the ridicule they receive from Black and White Atonists, Europe the ghost rattling its chains down the deserted halls of their brains. Ask those little colored urchins who make up” those new dance steps and the loa of the Black cook who wrote the last lines of the Ballad of Jesse James.” Ask the man who, deprived of an electronic guitar, picked up a washboard and started to play it. The Rhyming Fool who…talks crazy” for hours…(152)

Critic Lorenzo Thomas echoes this in his review for The Village Voice though speaking of Ishmael Reed’s experimental approach to literature instead of Jes Grew:

Mumbo Jumbo…goes beyond assault to re-definition…really about the crisis of a culture that refuses to acknowledge itself. Narcissus fleeing from the riverside…[it is] in the African and Afro-American tradition without compromise to Europeanism. [Reed] practices sound science… If the Black (ie, African anywhere) literary tradition is really an oral tradition,” what we mean by that phrase is the Thought is simultaneous with Sound. Just like Jazz… Did you ever hear Booker Little?…Did you ever sit in a cell down Catwalk Alley and shout stories to brothers on down the line. It’s magic. The opposite thing is the European mode of plotting, characterization,” exposition.” A system of exploitative development. In other words, the synchronization of several untruths which they call Fiction and teach in their schools. (Dick, 40)

For the Mu’tafikah, Jew Grew is about liberation through restoration of culture through art (the music, the dances, and their spontaneity being part of art); for Papa Lebas, VooDoo priest, it is about the return to the Black Man’s original spirituality, unadulterated by Christianity:

The African race has quite a sense of humor. In North America, under Christianity, many of them has been reduced to glumness, depression, surliness, cynicism, malice without artfulness…They’d really fallen in love with tragedy…For Labas, anyone who couldn’t titter a bit was not Afro but most likely a Christian connoting blood, death, and impaled emaciated Jew in excruciation. Nowhere is there an account of portrait of Christ laughing. (Reed, 97)

By no accident, Reed has given this character-- this old man, walking along with his cane and cape, the secrets of Osiris and the origination of Jes Grew locked in his head, lamenting the loss of the old ways, the loss of magic through the modern man‘s skepticism and scrutiny-- the name of an Orisha*. Papa Lebas is also known as Legba in Haitian voodoo, Eleggua/Elegba in Spanish-speaking Central and South America, Eshu in Yoruba, Exu in Brazil…Despite the many names, he is known as the Opener of the Ways,” standing between the divine and the corporeal, the deity always invoked first and last in ritual to gain access to the spiritual world-- as is Yinepu-Wepawet (Greek name Anubis), the jackal-headed god of the Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) pantheon who leads the souls into the Underworld to be judged. Lebas/Legbas, standing between the two words, is also the god of prophecy, however, as Papa Lebas expected Jes Grew’s rise, it is Muslim Abul who challenges Labas and predicts its end, its failure to survive lying in its lack of tangibility and structure which makes it easy to forget:

Are [the people] going to eat incense, candles? Maybe what you say is true about the nature of religions which occurred 1000s of years ago, but how are we going to survive if they have no discipline?…this country is eclectic. The architecture the people the music the writing. The thing that works here will have a little bit of jive talk and a little bit of North Africa, a fez-wearing mulatto in a pinstriped suit. A man who can say give me some skin and Asalamikalkum…authorities are already talking about outlawing VooDoo in Harlem…A new generation is on the scene. They will use terms like nitty gritty,” “for real,” where its at,” and use words like basic and really with telling emphasis. They will extend the letter and the meaning of the word bad.” They wont use your knowledge and they will call you sick and way out and that will be a sad day, but we must prepare for it. For on that day they will have abandoned the other world they came here with and will have become mundanists and pragmatists and concretizes. They will shout loudly about soul because they will have lost it…you will be a[n]…eccentric character obsolete…Me and my Griffin politics will survive, my chimeral art…Someone is coming…He might even have the red hair of a conjure man but he wont be 1. No, he will get it across. And he will be known as the man who got it across and people like you will live in seclusion and your circle will be limited and the people who read you will pride themselves on their culture and their selectiveness and their identification with the avant-garde. (37-39)

Reed, too, in writing this novel spoke on the disillusionment and loss of faith of the Black people, frustrated with lack of history and identity in America, mourning the loss of original language and religion, mourning the loss of laughter and dissension amongst each other. He, too, also gets it across,” challenging conventional (white standard) language and literary form, using nonsense, silence, mumbo jumbo to get it across,” to attempt to return the (hi)story back to the people, to free the people from the limits of Western confinement of language, spirituality, and emotion. Robert Elliot Fox writes in his article Blacking the Zero: Toward a Semiotics of Neo-Hoodoo,” about the mysterious circles that are placed between passages and chapters of Mumbo Jumbo, the blackened circle next to the white one, resembling the symbols on modern calendars for Full and New moons. Fox gives these symbols alphabetical correspondences and geometric figures used in voodoo ritual to invoke, not surprisingly, Atibon-Legba, lord of the crossroads, the initiator…he who leads the way before-- the perfect deity for guiding us into the text. The Dual symbolism of black and white (the rooster sacrificed to Papa Legba must be a speckled black-and-white one) is apt, for Legba is an intermediary between two different realities, just as a text is, among other things, an interface between imagination and action, creativity and (re)interpretation” (Dick, 41) Fox continues brilliantly:

[French philosopher] Derrida’s project to shake the totality of philosophic totalinarianism which he views structuralism as constituting provide parallels to Reed’s effort to deconstruct the cultural totalitarianism of Western civilization, which has not only equated itself with universality,” but also within its own context, drastically defined the parameters of what it takes to be its authentic tradition by structures of exclusion that have historically kept out much that is valuable, the very despise” elements Reed wishes to reinstate. Reed wants to reassert the questions” which the text of history has sidestepped. He is dealing not only with the phenomenon of possession (consciousness ridden by forces or concepts) and the act of possession (appropriation of ideas or artifacts) but also with re-possession-- the reclamation of lost, scattered, or denied areas of experience and tradition(s). Reed, through a deliberate energy of anachronism, multi-media devices, footnotes, bibliographies, and the like, opens up his texts, allowing disposed history to enter…You cannot discuss American history and culture without these signifiers: black, which substitutes the other shades (brown, red, yellow) of minority spectrum, and white…in textual terms, the signifiers…serve to remind us of the necessary interplay between black ink and white space…Because there is always another side to the coin, there is always an alternative, a different story-- e.g.,

Nonsense=MUMBO JUMBO=Neo-Hoodoo (positive magic)

from the black point of view, the transition from nonsense” to a positive interpretation is one in which the slave becomes the master. Although the English language has basically equated the expression mumbo jumbo” with gibberish,” the etymology Reed provides…relat[es] to a process which calms the troubled spirits of the ancestors. Ironically, at the same time that the words lost their original meaning, they took on a meaning which troubled the spirits of whites, invoking the fearful, atavistic vision of the dark continent.” (48-51)

Danielewski, too, takes a deliberate stab at what has been given as truth in the totalizing of history, the perspective the nation’s been told to inherit as a common cultural acceptance of a certain knowledge. Reed, as illustrated above, undermines traditional meta-narrative in order to upset, as a Black author, the white Euro-American monopoly on accepted history and changing the perspective that for ages has been twisted and slanted, with bias, to glorify only the white man. Danielewski on the other hand, in Only Revolutions, purposefully plays with history by re-ordering or “mistaking” dates of crucial events, omitting events, including more personal, microcosmic events to give them as much importance. By muddling and obscuring facts or otherwise not mentioning them at all, he forces the audience to see just how out of touch they/we are with the history and things around us, just as Sam and Hailey are and illuminating exactly how much we don’t know that we thought we did. In faulting Sam and Hailey for disregarding the events around them, we fault ourselves.

Take, for instance, Danielewski’s misdating of the death of Jimi Hendrix on H88. He dates Hendrix’s death as August 24, 1970. Hendrix, in fact, died September 18, 1970. One would think that for a historical figure as well-known, admired, or at the very least so mass-marketed, readers would immediately stop and say “wait, that’s not the day he died.” Or, perhaps the opposite—perhaps readers are so aware of Hendrix, or think they are, that they’ll simply assume that is the right date because, a reader could presume, no one could possibly mistake the day he died, right? Either way, Danielewski is proving his point. What has been shoved down our throats so much and so long we take it for granted? We’ve all heard Martin Luther King’s name hundreds of times by even the end of elementary school but how many of us can actually tell the exact date he was assassinated? What knowledge do we just “brush off,” having assumed its constant availability? How many of us, especially now, don’t bother to commit to memory a certain date or event in history because we assume we can always Google or Wikipedia it? Or, just the opposite, how many of us remember exactly what we were doing when the planes hit the World Trade Center buildings (an event Danielewski deliberately misdated, which will be explained later) or what we were doing when JFK died but don’t know the exact time we were born or the day of our first kiss? Why are we accepting someone else’s experience, someone else’s history before our own? Why do we hold onto a history a certain group (the “Powers That Be,” if you will) has a monopoly on and disregard small but vital parts of our own? Why do we trust that history given to us and give it so much power and reverence? This is what Danielewski does, what he forces us to ask ourselves, in Only Revolutions, within Sam and Hailey and the text itself.

Another question Danielewski makes us ask ourselves is why is one day-- September 11, 2001, for example-- considered more significant than the days leading up to it, or the days in its own aftermath; why is that a day considered to have happened rather than a day that was always happening, is still happening? This is why, in the historical sidebar on H277, there is no listing for September 11th, though the falling of the World Trade Center is listed on August 2, 2001: placing it here, the author makes us understand that this is not and never could have been a single event, a single day-- it was happening as much on August 2nd as it was September 11th.

The structure of Sam and Hailey’s narratives reflects the various points where personal life and grand history collide-- and how each is as vital to the existence of the other, how humans synthesize the collective and individual, how we feel” some external event in relation to an intimate experience in our own lives and, likewise, how such major external events are only extensions of, or continuations of, consequence: consequence of the infinite smaller events. Hand in hand with this, he also illuminates the way humans can also put themselves above history and the greater scope of the rest of the world: ego-centric, narcissistic, one can, like Sam and Hailey at the beginning of their tales, claim to be able to “destroy” or “devastate” (respectively) the world themselves, “killing Dreams” and making Mountain Tops shout their names.

I leap free this spring./ On fire. How my curls./ I’ll destroy the world./ That’s all. Big ruin all/ around. With a wiggle./ With a waggle. A spin./ Allmighty sixteen and freeeeee./ Rebounding on bare feet. (Danielewski, H1)

Here Sam and Hailey, before having met each other, are glorifying themselves and, placed ever in the outside without regarding the events outside themselves, they’ve made themselves the beginning and end of history. Sam’s narrative starts on the eve of the third Battle of Chattanooga, the turning point of the Civil War, and the birth of a new nation, though through what is considered a loss of some kind of innocence, the loss of the nation’s unity and the revelation to many about the hidden hypocrisy and evil that polarized the people. It was the start of hope for the freed slaves, the end of hope for the decimated South, never to be restored to its former pre-war glory. Hailey’s narrative starts November 22, 1963, at the Texas School Depository where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. This, too, a loss of innocence in America, also simultaneously the beginning and the end of New Hope.

Here they are, Sam and Hailey, two eternal teenagers, teetering on the edge of innocence, and not caring which way they fell-- towards the loss of it, the destruction of the idealization, the romaticization of Hope and Youth; or the birth of that New Hope only they could try to bring forth in letting go of everything.

Only Revolutions is essentially about letting go-- letting go of relationships, a need for “home” and interior self and identity; letting go of ties and confines, limits of identification with a particular common history or heritage; letting go of ego as they do once they meet and love each other, now glorifying each other, making each other their whole world, changing the whole world as with Hailey’s “snorts spilling cyclones. Smiles bringing harvests” (S316)…They also, by never stopping, rushing through time and history at top speeds, let go of history. By speeding through, reckless and hopeful as they are, they can afford to just let things happen around them, disregarding them though external events still seep their way in subconsciously. They are always going going going, never stopping, never slowing in their fast cars with their fast, rough love and arrogance. They even let go of language. Their language changes with every page, years of dialect and slang changing in a matter of a few pages, a few paragraphs, sometimes mid-sentence. Danielewski speaks of the “materialism” of writers, holding onto words, language. But Sam and Hailey write their own story, their own histories subjectively, not caring to slow down enough to adopt the words, the history, the feel of the times changing around them. They just pass through, everything a blur as it always is from any car window.

But Sam and Hailey also let go of each other. As Danielewski revealed at a public bookstore reading[3], love is not freedom because it is essentially about binding oneself to another. Letting go of each other, Sam and Hailey’s’ narratives stop mirroring each other so closely and they begin to incorporate external forces more, as on H280, Hailey claims she and Sam are “every exception. Exceptionally stoked/ how we ricochet away by Iraqi forces, UN forces/ and rainbow ravers floating civilly below,” in the middle of the war the sidebar tells us is in January 26, 2003.

Alas, Sam and Hailey never really let each other go, as they both go to their deaths for the other, whispering in their last breaths “I could never walk away from you” (H380, S380) and find freedom only in death, truly releasing (and being released from) the limitations of the world and the rules of man and gravity.

[1] Included in the collection of reviews and analyses in Bruce Allen Dick’s The Critical Response to Ishmael Reed…from here on out, all secondary criticism on Ishmael Reed will have been taken from this collection and cited, attributed to Bruce Allen Dick, the editor.

[2] attributed to Ihab Hassan in The Dismemberment of Orpheus, page 13

* Orishas are considered the multiple aspects of one God.

[3] Strand Bookstore, October 22, 2006

Nancy Morejon paper

Gloria “Dani” Steele

Hispanic Lit

Nancy Morejon Conference Project

May 2007

Still I smell the foam of the sea which they made me cross.

The night, I cannot remember it.

Not even the ocean itself could remember it.

But I do not forget the first gannet I made out.

High, the clouds, like innocent eyewitnesses.

Perhaps I have not forgotten either my lost coast, or

my ancestral tongue.

They left me here and here I have lived.

And because I worked like a beast,

Here I was born again.

To many Mandinga epopeias did I try to have recourse.

I rebelled.


Initially, Nancy Morejon’s celebrated poem “Mujer Negra/Black Woman” seems to be a general statement on all/any woman of the African Diaspora and the horrifying consequences of the European rape of Africa embodied in that woman. The poem being called “Black Woman”, not “The Black Woman” or “A Black Woman” (or “A Black Cuban Woman”, even) seems to suggest this Black Woman, as writer or speaker could be any Black woman. And, indeed, until the final stanza, the poem is a powerful illustration of a woman’s journey from Africa to enslavement in Europe and the Americas, suffering the horrible and total loss of identity and culture in hegemonic oppression, through rebellion and so-called emancipation. But the issue of absolute commonality in the African Diaspora is a tricky one. One often hears “Oh, s/he’s Black, they understand.” Which is true to a point. Certainly there are common traits particular to Africans and their descendents, as in any culture. And there are certain traits and a collective memory that binds Black people together, the Black Holocaust and all that means forever burned in each of us. But it is a mistake to assume that a Black person in Cuba will claim to understand everything that has made a person from the American South the way they are and vice versa. Also, for the most part, identifying as “Black” seems to be particular to African-American descendents of slaves. North American Blacks are peculiarly displaced, feeling no allegiance to the country that has enslaved them, yet wanting to take part in all the freedom the country’s founding fathers hypocritically claimed was for all. Africans in other nations (including countries in Central and Southern America), however, seem to always identify first with their country, then with their race. It is not uncommon to hear one say, “I’m Cuban [or any other country] first, Black second.” While it is tempting to lump all Black people together and, in the case of writers like Morejon, to frustratingly wish them to be “more Black” and write more about a more universal Black experience, one must not make these mistakes.

Morejon has often been criticized for her “silence” and self-censorship regarding her feelings as a woman in general and a Black woman specifically. Many readers and critics alike wish her to speak more openly about oppression or, to put it simply, what it means to be Afro-Cuban more and less what it means to be Cuban. Then one is confronted with the changes the Revolution brought about, which Jean Andrews summarizes in the introduction to her anthology of Morejon’s poetry, Mujer Negra y otras poemas/ Black Woman and Other Poems: “When the Cuban Revolution took place in 1959, Cuba was the ‘most racist if the Hispanic Caribbean Territories’. It set out as one of its chief aims the elimination of the discrimination on the grounds of race and, with some caveats, has been successful in transforming Cuba into, arguably, the most racially integrated of the Caribbean nations.”

On the one hand the frustrated reader can assume that, though disillusioned by the Revolution’s subtle contradictions and failures, many Afro-Cubans, Morejon included, have continued to “blindly” support it, in a way of saying “well, it’s not great, but it’s all we have.” Much in the way many North American Blacks seemed to acquiesce to the notion of “Separate but Equal.” But this assumption, too, would be the mistake of placing an outside context on the issue; of thinking of a distinctly Cuban matter through a North American filter. There is another way to see the issue, however…

In an essay entitled “Cuban National Identity in Morejon, Rolando, and Ayon”, from the book Guarding Cultural Memory: Afro-Cuban Women in Literature and the Arts, Flora Gonzales Mandri explores this:

Castro’s much quoted words are “Within the Revolution everything, against the Revolution nothing”... Because in the new socialist revolution racism could not exist, discussion of race could not be tolerated…overall, Afro-Cubans who remained in Cuba, like Morejon, are critical of times, from the 1960s to the 1990s, when the institutional government supported black independence movements yet did not allow its black intellectuals to speak openly about their Afro-Cuban identity…I agree with Howe that Morejon’s ambivalent intellectual attitude may be seen as a personal survival mechanism given the fact that she has chosen to continue living in Cuba…it shows her to be an excellent mediator between her culture and her national identity.

The question then to confront is whether Morejon consciously censors herself, recognizing the irony of a society born of a revolution that purports to have unified the races and classes in a single, all-inclusive identity when, in fact, that only brings a loss of identity in further denying a people the right to claim their dual heritage and unique culture. Or is she blindly buying into the ultimately unfulfilled promises of Communism where all people are equal along lines of gender, race, and class which essentially leaves one without a unique identity, as one has presumably become a tiny part of one huge homogenous group. By the end of “Black Woman”, one gets the jarring feeling that Morejon, before this point, has been digging deep, exploring what it means to be Black and inherit the legacy of slavery and the African holocaust and suddenly, to appease the powers that be, throws in a random laudatory stanza in which she thanks Communism for freeing her from that oppression by doing away with discrimination in that country:

Only a century later,

together with my descendants,

from a blue mountain,

I came down from the Sierra

to put an end to capitalists and usurers,

to generals and bourgeois.

Now I am: Only today do we have and create.

Nothing is outside our reach.

Ours the land.

Ours the sea and sky.

Ours magic and the chimera.

My equals, here I watch them dance

around the tree we planted for communism.

Its prodigious wood already resounds.

This final stanza feels foreign to the rest of the poem, feels hastily added, as an afterthought or even a half-hearted inclusion of propoganda—a false happy ending, seemingly over-idealistic, to an epic tragedy. Why does Morejon add this? Does she truly believe this, is she that hopeful, that faithful to the ideals of the Revolution? Or is she simply finding a means to speak of her feelings as a Black Woman, skillfully and knowingly veiling it with this tongue in cheek supplement serving as what Mandri calls a “survival mechanism”? The trouble with Morejon is that one can never be quite sure.

In her poem “Rebirth”, it seems much clearer that Morejon belives in her Cuba and certainly does “live and think” in and on the Revolution. Grateful for the struggle, indebted to her nation, she writes beautifully:

Daughter of the sea waters

asleep in their entrails,

I am reborn from the gunpowder

which a guerilla rifle

spread on the mountain

so that the world would be reborn in its turn,

that the whole sea would be reborn,

all the dust,

all the dust of Cuba.

She alludes to her ancestors’ journey through the Middle Passage and the strength of the descendants, inheriting their (hi)stories—those that survived, including herself and her generation, and those that didn’t. She doesn’t allow herself or the reader to mistake her as a daughter of anything else but Mother Africa first and, yes, the ocean where rests innumerable Africans’ bones. However, she quickly asserts herself as a reborn daughter of the Revolution, of Cuba, thankful for being part of the effort to liberate her people through Communist unity. She is, as Richard Jackson says in his article “Remembering the ‘dismembered’: modern black writers and slavery in Latin America”, “remember[ing] a double Middle Passage, the original Atlantic slave trade and the ‘new’ Middle Passage…from the Caribbean to Central America.” She even seems to suggest that the Cuban Revolution and its supposed success is only the beginning of a successful rebirth of the entire world, following the Communist example, in which Blacks that died in the cycle of injustice would be avenged. The dust that was their bones littering the floor of the Atlantic, the dust that was their bones making up the very American soil we walk upon, Morejon seems to suggest, converges to make up “all the dust of Cuba”, the country that, through the Revolution, avenges them. Morejon fares better, however, returning to make a more generalized statement on the state of men in the Diaspora in her poem “Negro/Black Man”, in which she confronts a more universally understood, and troubling, racist eroticization of the Black male.

From the beginning, there has been a constant envy and inherent fear of the African mind and body. Europeans knew the strength of the Africans, knew their knowledge and wealth. What the Europeans didn’t have, they stole from the so-called Dark Continent—the inventions of the people from electricity to embalming and brain surgery; gold, diamonds, land and other resources; even the people themselves, profiting from their physical strength, using them to build the New World they’d stolen, too, from the so-called Indians they nearly exterminated in gracious return. The primary goal to ensure maintenance of the people’s enslavement was to break them spiritually, to strip them of their history and culture and convince them they were inferior—to convince the world and the enslaved that they were animals. The Black man (and to some degree the Black woman) has been painted through history as a beast, a sexually ravenous predator, insatiable, ready at any moment to corrupt the white body—the prized white female body being the most sacred and, it was assumed, most threatened. As far back as the 16th century, we already had seemingly infinite proof that the myth of the Black male predator was widely accepted—Shakespeare’s Othello, for example is the tragic story of the moor, betrayed by the very whites who exalted him for his military prowess and, in the same instant, accused him of rape and unholy enchantment of his white wife, Desdemona. In the American South, thousands of Blacks were lynched (especially during and after Reconstruction), murdered horribly for crimes they never committed—nearly all of them having been accused of rape or the attempted rape of the supposed ‘Pure White Woman”. One must wonder, though, if this terrible trend was as commonly practiced among whites in Latin America and, more importantly, if this myth of Black sexuality was as persistent.

Afro-Cuban photographer Rene Pena confirms and confronts this in his series “Ritos II/Rituals II”. Several of his photographs are uncomfortably close shots of a Black body—a nipple, teeth, even palm lines. These tight shots are disturbing, as if the photographer is the white observer, casting a cool, cruel eye over the Black body, examining it not as a human, but as an animal, a specimen, as some grotesque phenomenon, as an object. The photographs, as close as they are, make this Black body no longer a body and the images scarcely look human. We see skin cells, pores, wrinkles, turning into a sort of design, distanced from the body and, ultimately, the soul of the human they belong to. As if that wasn’t troubling enough, however, Pena includes two other prints that make the issue unmistakably clear, leaving no ambiguities—one, “Revolver en la boca/Gun in mouth”, showing a Black male with a pistol in his mouth, presumably to commit suicide; the other, “Cuchillo/Knife” is a fascinating shot of a Black man fingering the tip of a gleaming, sharp knife that substitutes as his penis. We have Black men, poised for their own deaths by their own sexuality. We do not have to explain the obvious phallic nature of the gun, nor do we have to explain the well-known myth that endures today concerning the power of the Black penis, and the Black man with the gun in his mouth reinforces the tragic reality of the African, attacked and feared and often murdered for the very sexual prowess he is glorified for. The subject of “Cuchillo” is in a similar predicament. The viewer watches his finger on the tip of the knife—is he stroking this deadly weapon of a penis, taking pride in it even as it inevitably destroys him, even as he is cut by it, killed by it? One continues to wonder….

Morejon tackles the issue of the simultaneous, if contradictory, exoticism and demonism of the Black man, also a victim of lynching, in “Negro”:

Your hair,

for some,

was devilry from the Inferno;

but the hummingbird built his nest

there, with no misgivings,

when you were hanging high on the gallows post,

in from of the palace of the captains.


She begins very directly illuminating the trouble of European standards of beauty inherited by non-whites that leaves them insecure, unhappy with what their natural, unique beauty, longing to “better” themselves by looking white, damaging themselves with skin bleaching, harmful hair straightening products, and surgery. This Black man of Morejon’s poem, called ugly, called nigger, called animal, called monster, called unacceptable by white society, he is beautiful in nature. The bird nesting in his hair, calling him home, is at one with this Black body. This bird loves this Black body, just as the sky, sea, and earth love this Black body—all waiting to claim him, to welcome him. The sea that already holds the remains of the Black bodies that came before him, thrown away, unappreciated—that sea loves that Black body. The earth he will be buried in (if he’s lucky), the earth his body will soon decay and replace—that earth loves that Black body. The sky his soul will take flight in, leaving that unwanted skin—that sky loves that Black body. It is only the enemy, the enslaver, that hates and fears his body, his skin, his hair… Morejon continues, a few lines later:

Then dying

they suspected your smile was salty

and your moss impalpable for the encounter of love.

Others affirmed that your swamp sticks

brought us that somber damage

which does not allow us to shine before Europe

and which hurls us, in the ritual maelstrom,

into that impossible rhythm

of unnameable drums.

Here she acknowledges the arrogance, the insolence the Black man is accused of—but since when is claiming a bit of human dignity arrogance? The “salty” dying smile not one of lost hope, not one of submission, but one of knowing—refusing to concede and, although knowing he will die for his perceived threat, still trusting the struggle will continue and, one day, justice must come to his people. Morejon acknowledges that this skin the white man does not love has somehow been a curse that keeps them forever at the lowest levels of humanity, that “does not allow” them to “shine before Europe”, to be accepted as something worthy, something with a soul. That “impossible rhythm of unnameable drums” is the one they’ve forgotten, their native African tongues and songs, dances and gods, lost, stolen, forgotten. But this man and his memory will continue to live and be loved by Morejon and the rest of the Black women, mothers and lovers, who were denied this man’s presence in their lives as husband, father, son—the white man having divided him from his people, wreaked havoc and dissension amongst them, and, ultimately, killed him:

We will always love

your tracks and your bronze spirit

because you have brought that living light of the flowing past,

that pain of having entered clean into the battle,

that simple affection for bells and rivers,

that rumor of breath free in the Spring

which runs to the sea in order to return

and leave all over again.

This effort to love the unloved, to call beautiful what the oppressor says is ugly, is approached in a similar way by African-American writer and Pulitzer prize-winner Toni Morrison, in her novel Beloved, where the protagonist’s mother-in-law and community minister (of sorts), Baby Suggs, holy, calls out to the community of runaway slaves:

“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands…stroke them on your face ‘cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth...they will see it broken and break it again… What you scream from it, they will not hear…they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them…and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

It is here, in “Negro” that Morejon returns to a feeling common to all members of the diaspora—the need to unite, as Black people, and love what has been cursed, the common search for identity and purpose where history has literally been erased and re-written, the common ability to forge a new culture, a new spirit, a victory over the very repression that tried to annihilate the old spirit. Despite her Cuban peculiarity, Morejon still finds a comfortable place among other Black writers and continues a legacy African descendents all over the world can still hold claim to.

Pilar and Two Marys

Gloria “Dani” Steele

Hispanic Lit

Why Can’t It be Beautiful: Pilar’s Seduction and the marriage of the Marys

Spring 2007

In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvois writes, “First we must ask: what is woman? ‘tota mulier in utero,’ says one, ‘woman is a womb.’ But in speaking of certain women, connoisseurs declare that they are not women, although they are equipped with a uterus like the rest…and yet femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, become women. It would appear then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity. Is this attribute something secreted by the ovaries? Or is it a platonic essence, a product of philosophic imagination?” She continues, quoting Aristotle:

“The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities, said Aristotle; “we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.”…Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being…Benda is most positive in his Rapport d’ Uriel: “The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of woman, whereas the latter seems wanting in significance by itself…Man can think of himself without woman. She cannot think of herself without man.” And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called “the sex,” by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex-- absolute sex, no less. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her…He is the Subject, he is the Absolute-- she is the Other.

And, indeed, in a patriarchal society as we are placed, women are given separate roles to follow-- that of a man’s mother, his conquest (as a virgin expected to succumb to him), and the whore (a mysterious being, unattainable, whom he never marries, but who awakens him sexually and whom he can never claim). Simone de Beauvois’ acquiescent claims echo Octavio Paz’s Freudian analysis of the Mexican identity in The Labyrinth of Solitude:

In a world made in man’s image, woman is only a reflection of masculine will and desire. When passive, she becomes a goddess, a beloved one, a being who embodies the ancient, stable elements of the universe: the earth, motherhood, a receptacle and a channel. When active, she is always function and means, a receptacle and a channel. Womanhood, unlike manhood, is never an end in itself.

But, instinctively rejecting these theories that maintain woman can only be defined relative to men, the question must be put forth: what makes a woman? What is a woman? Simply a series of (different) physical attributes-- ovaries holding unborn seed, uterus to protect growing fetus, something between two thighs from which life, a being, is expelled, and breasts tools for feeding and nurturing? Yes, but one also knows that womb in which that child grows, had to have first been filled, in an act of love[-making], by a man. That vagina from which the child is pulled had to have been first penetrated by a man-- that same mother was once a virgin, was also once someone’s woman, someone’s love, something warm and inviting, something a man fever-dreamed about, shivering. The problem is most people never see the wife or mother as capable of sexuality, or in possession of sexuality. People seem to forget that the same woman at the alter in white, or rocking a cradle, was once sexual. Where, in the western patriarchy, can we find a whole woman?

Singer/songwriter Tori Amos, herself a minister’s daughter, extensively explores the division of Christian women and the consequences in her raw, honest, and cathertic music. As quoted in Dazed and Confused magazine, she makes her frustration with this system plain-- “There’s this denial that the Magdalene was as divine as the Virgin Mary.” Likewise, in an interview in Aquarian Weekly magazine, she confronts the limits of the Biblical archetypes western women, in one way or another, seem doomed to follow:

I looked inward for answers - and to find the female. I was looking for the blueprint of women that wasn’t in Christianity. You see, the Magdalene’s blueprint wasn’t passed down. The blueprint of the Virgin Mary-- and the Mother Mary-- was passed down, but not woman as independent prophet/priestess on her own. Strike the word prophet-- woman/priestess, passion, compassion-- that’s how I view the Magdalene, not the whore who wiped Jesus’ feet. ...Naturally, I think there’s a fragmentation in the Christian myth-- there is no myth of the woman without being associated through the man-- or through the sex-- whether she’s a virgin or a mother. She’s a virgin before the son of God is born and then she’s a mother after he’s born. Whether Mary Magdalene was the wife of the son - to me, Mary was truly the female representation of God.

In our western Christian partiarchial society, we've been given sexless archetypes to follow-- a supposedly sexless Jesus, and a Virgin Mary who becomes his mother, the story goes, without physical union with a man. We have the eternal son, Jesus, (we assume never reaching manhood or fatherhood as he is portrayed as having never touched a woman), it seems, and the eternal suffering mother. like la llorona, Mary the mother has watched her son die....but what about the weeping Magdalene at her side? This woman, demonized for her sexuality and passion-- who is she and why is she perceived as less legitimate than the mother Mary, the virgin Mary? why can she not have claim to Jesus's love?

In his One Hundred years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez seems to accomplish the unification of the two Mary archetypes in the character of fortune teller Pilar Ternera. Prostitute, priestess, prophetess, witch…these terms, applied in different circles to the Magdalene certainly apply to Marquez’s Pilar Ternera. But Pilar and the Magdalene, uncompromisingly sensual and shamelessly sexual, why can’t they be teachers, nurturers, mothers, claiming their shadow side without the shame? Why is the Magdalene representative of the dark, evil, base, corrupt side of love and why is the virgin and mother confined to a love without passion?

...and then he lost his memory, as during times of forgetfulness, and he recovered it on a strange dawn and in a room that was completely foreign, where Pilar Ternera stood in her slip, barefoot, her hair down, holding a lamp over him, startled with disbelief.
Aureliano checked his feet and raised his head. he did not know how he had come there, but he knew what his aim was, because he had carried it hidden since infancy in an inviolable backwater of his heart.
"I've come to sleep with you," he said.
His clothes were covered with mud and vomit. Pilar...did not ask any questions. She took him to the bed. She cleaned his face with a damp cloth, took off his clothes, and then got completely undressed and lowered the mosquito netting so that her children would not see them if they woke up. She had become tired of waiting for the man who would stay, of the men who had left, of the countless men who missed the road to her house, confused by the uncertainty of the card. During the wait her skin had become wrinkled, her breasts had withered, the coals of her heart had gone out. She felt for Aureliano in the darkness, put her hand on his stomach and kissed him on the neck with maternal tenderness. "My poor child," she murmured. Aureliano shuddered. With a calm skill, without the slightest misstep, he left his accumulated grief behind and found Remedios changed into a swamp without horizons, smelling of a raw animal and recently ironed clothes.

Enchanted by Pilar, young Jose Arcadio Buedia certainly sees a nurturing part of her that exists as an inseperable part of and, perhaps, strengthens the sexual attreaction between them. Indeed, he wantes her to be his mother and, even while making love, he confuses her face with that of Ursula. The passages describing Pilar’s seduction of Jose Arcadio and his brother Aureliano are undeniably beautiful. Most importantly, however, they reveal the natural coexistence of the motherly, nurturing qualities of women and those of the so-called “sacred prostitute”, her sexual guidance an invaluable service. Pilar is her own woman, undivided, uncircumcised of either her sexuality of her divinity. That she exists, even as a fictional character, proves that it is possible for a woman to embody all female roles but the question then remains: how can one function safely as bother mother and lover without any conflict of interest, as Pilar does? But that, if it ever can be concretely answered, will not be answered here.