Of A Death Foretold – Comparison Essay, Research Paper
When analyzing Isabel Allende’s and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s lives, parallels between them become increasingly obvious, thus the rationalization for some of the similarities that are observed between their historically fictional novels The House of the Spirits and Chronicle of a Death Foretold, respectively. One of the most obvious parallels is the influence of women on both of them. Allende dedicates The House of the Spirits “to my mother, my grandmother and all the other extraordinary women of this story,” showing feminine influence, and Marquez grew up in a household with his grandmother and numerous aunts, therefore he would also show the influence of women; also, both novelists are from Latin and South America, thus they both would most likely show literary elements that are characteristic of that geographic area. Because of their similar influences, the theme of ‘the great mental, and sometimes physical, strength of women’ is prominent in both of their works. When analyzing this theme in both novels, the two most distinct semblances are: in both novels at least one female character has the sagacity to possess some kind of preternatural ability, and women have the strength to endure a marriage without loving their suitor. Although the works are very similar, there are some differences. Two differences between the works are that in Allende’s novel, when they are children, women are not taught domestic, not taught about the sacrifices of marriage, whereas in Marquez’s novel, they are; and how each author portrays some of these similarities and differences contrast.
Characteristically, Latin American fictional novels exhibit elements of magical realism; these two novels are no different. One of the most prominent characters in Allende’s work, Clara, is an example of a character who Allende uses magical realism to characterize. Clara “could interpret dreams?.could predict the future and recognize people’s intentions, [and] abilities?.[could] move objects without touching them” (Allende 66-67) and other things that are beyond the abilities of most other characters. Other female characters exhibit characteristics like Clara in the novel, but none as pronounced or developed as hers. In Marquez’s novel, Placida “had a well-earned reputation of an accurate interpreter of other people’s dreams,” (Marquez 4) and many other female characters get premonitions and omens before Nassar is killed. Both of these authors use magical realism to give the reader the feeling that there is something beyond that physical world, something important contained in our dreams, and they use it especially with the female characters to emphasize the fact that sometimes females may be physically weaker than males but they are not as mentally weak. They also use it to invoke a certain respect for women and they parts that they play in the story itself, but also in the family and the world as a whole.
In both novels, set in the same time period and in similar societies, the notion that the females must marry a man without loving him and nearly independently withstand the union is prevalent. In The House of the Spirits, Blanca does not want to marry Jean and protests:
“I’m not getting married, Papa,” [Blanca] said. “Be quiet!” [Trueba] roared. “You’re getting married?.Don’t talk back to me! I want you to know that Pedro Tercero Garcia is dead. I killed him with my own hands, so you might as well forget about him and try to be a good wife to the man who’s going to lead you to the altar.” (Allende 215)
Blanca does not love Jean and does not want to marry him, but nonetheless she must. Even more, children know, from a very young age, that they will be forced to marry and endure a marriage that typically lasted for the rest of the couples’ lives. Clara “had already made up her mind to marry without love” (Allende 90). That shows extreme strength of character and will-power. Marriage without love is also evident in Chronicle of a Death Foretold when Angela will marry,
Angela Vicario never forgot the horror of the night on which her parents and older sisters with their husbands, gathered together in the parlor, imposed the obligation to marry a man whom she had barely ever seen?her mother demolished [her objection] with a single phrase: “Love can be learned too.” (Marquez 38)
This citation explains it all; Angela Vicario is forced to marry without love and endure the marriage while trying to learn to love someone. “It was Angela Vicario who didn’t want to marry him. ‘He seemed too much or a man for me,’ she told me?.[She] only dared hint at the inconvenience of a lack of love?” (Marquez 37-8). Again, she does not want to marry him, but she does anyway. The effect of the authors showing this is again to try to obtain admiration for these characters because they know, and now the readers know, that their hearts and feelings play no part in their eventual destinies.
Along with the many similarities, there are a few differences between these two novels. For example, the portrayal of the strength of women, when it comes to doing domestic errands, differs between the two authors. Marquez stresses domestic skills; Allende does not. Clara “was?not particularly well suited to the duties of marriage and domestic life” (Allende 88), and later, “Clara had no interest in domestic matters” (Allende 128). Clara has no domestic skills because they were not emphasized when she was growing up; women were not typically raised to be physically strong during marriage but it turns out that they must be anyway. It is the same with Blanca; no one teaches her how to do household chores. However, in Marquez’s work,
The girls were reared to get married. They knew how to do screen embroidery, sew by machine, weave bone lace, wash and iron, make artificial flowers and fancy candy, and write engagement announcements?.”They’re perfect,” [Pura] was frequently heard to say. “Any man will be happy with them because they’ve been raised to suffer.” (Marquez 34)
Here readers distinguish that in Marquez’s novel, children are taught from a very young age to sew and do other tasks that will be important to them during marriage; taught that life will be hard and that they will have to do things that they do not want to. Conversely, in Allende’s novel, children are not taught these things. This may be because of the difference of social class that each family represents; the Trueba and del Valle families are more affluent than the Nassar and Vicario families. Again, the effect of this is the reader acquires a feeling of esteem towards the female characters because they are reared to marry and reared to live with the sacrifices of marriage and domestic life.
Another difference between the novels is the style in which the theme is portrayed. The House of the Spirits uses three different narrators: Esteban, Alba and the omniscient third person. The applicability of each of these three different narrators is to support Allende’s development of the theme utilizing more than one perspective as well as more than one gender. Readers get the perspective of the authoritative patriarch, the defiant child in addition to an omniscient narrator, which gives insight into everything which readers would not obtain through the first person narrative forms. Whereas, in Chronicle of a Death Foretold only the first person narrator is used; the narrator is a male and only reports what people say happened years ago. This style of writing, in itself, hinders the portrayal, but Marquez is clever because the chronicling style, as he uses it, allows to get many people’s perspective on events while using the usually constricting first person narrator. The chronicling style technically only allows for the narrator to observe and dictate objectively thus making it nearly impossible to report any feelings, prohibiting bringing true feminine empathy.
To conclude, the portrayal of the shrewdness in women in two Latin American novels: Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, is similar in that in both works at least one female exhibits some sort of metaphysical ability and the women are forced to marry without love, which will eventually require the utmost strength of character and of determination. The portrayal is different in the two novels because Allende does not make her female characters learn to perform household responsibilities whereas Marquez does, and the narrative styles are different and each of the styles has their unique advantages and disadvantages. Personally, the desired effect of this theme, a summons of admiration for the female characters who express these characteristics, ‘worked’ on me. After reading both of these heartfelt, thoughtful and powerful works, I cannot help but feel awe that these remarkable women were forced to marry lacking affection and veneration for these humble women that possessed these supernatural traits. After reading both of these novels, I have a more developed admiration for my mother, grandmother and other women in my life and have more respect for how far they have come.
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