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Analyse the use of language and popular culture in Carmen Martín Gaite’s El cuarto de atrás and Rosa Montero’s Te trataré como a una reina. How do they influence identity (and specifically gender identity)? Carmen Martin Gaite and Rosa Montero are two female Spanish writers that grew up under the Francoist regime and who where part of the ‘feminist boom’ of Spanish writing that appeared in the ‘transition period’. They concentrated on those traditionally marginalised by society, particularly women. The themes concentrated on female issues such as motherhood, relationships, female relations, power, suppression, societal ideas and most importantly identity. While there was indeed the publishing of many memoirs that dealt with an individual experiences and identity, Montero and Gaite, among others, chose to write books exploring the collective experiences of their generation. They highlight the fact that, while classes and political views may have divided them, they shared a communal experience of life under Franco’s regime and the impact that had on shaping their identity. While female identity is the most explored element of both novel, in neither is the male ignored. In both novels Montero and Gaite employ the use of language and popular culture to illustrate and also subvert different ideas gender identity. Both use elements of language and culture not only to illustrate their influence on gender perception but also to influence and challenge the reader’s understanding of traditional views on gender identity.

In order to understand the role that language and culture has in influencing identity in these novels, it is important to examine the society portrayed in them. Francoist Spain treated women as second class citizens. Enshrined in the constitution was the idea of ‘permiso marital’. Without the husband’s permission, a wife was forbidden to do anything. (C talks about how even interior decorating had to approved first by the husband) She was like his property. The female’s role was resigned to that of wife and mother. They were inoculated with ideas of submission and inferiority by the Seccion Feminina, which was responsible for the education and training of women . In their words, women were neither innovative nor creative, ‘Las mujeres nunca descubren nada; les falta, desde luego, el talento creador’ Women’s education was also influenced by Roman Catholic ethos. An emphasis was placed on religion and domestic instruction. (Antonia’s own mother was illiterate and had to have Antonia’s letters read to her). Females were unable or were discouraged from taking an academic or other role than differed from the traditional female role.( C’s mother was unable to pursue her studies) Traditional gender stereotypes were also reinforced through culture and their language. There was strict censorship on all forms of culture. Ideas and images of the perfect female models were unrealistic. They were expected to be patient, sweet and passive. Role models included Isabel la Catholica, a Spanish saint. Through magazines, Bolero’s, film reels and radio, gender stereotypes were portrayed and reinforced, for both male and female. Those that transgressed from these traditional roles were portrayed in a negative light in popular culture of the Franco regime. Both Montero and Gaite recognize the influence that this culture had on the formation of, not only their identity, but that of their generation as well. Throughout their books, they attempt to highlight this influence and also illustrate the impossible and damaging aspects of solely using these cultural ideas in identity formation. (However, Gaite, does also note some of the positive and unintentional positive impacts of culture on her identity). Both use culture as a means to connect and identify with others of their generation and those that shared similar experiences.)

The language of both novels provides an essential tool in creating the idea of gender identity. Both...
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