October 8, 2010
Culture is the “System of values, beliefs and ways of knowing that guide communities of people in their daily lives” (qtd. In Rothstein-Fusch and Trumball 3). Every culture is different and unique in its own lifestyle. Culture is basically life itself. The short story “Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros is a clear example of these characteristics by bringing together life in Mexico and the United States. The reader gets the opportunity to view both sides of Cleofilas, the protagonist of the short story, culture as she moves to a new place with her new husband Juan Pedro. She enjoys watching telenovelas because she knows her life will never measure up to the lives of beautiful women from the telenovelas. Cleofilas begins to encounter a dramatic situation by living with an abusive husband and being dominated by men. In the Latin society a common myth is the La Llorona, the weeping woman that Cleofilas seems to encounter. Recognizing the elements of Mexican culture is important in understanding Cisneros’s short story “Woman Hollering Creek.”
The telenovelas condition Latina females in their views about romance. The television shows describe the love and life many girls anticipate as they grow up to be young women. For example, Cleofilas wanted her life to be of “passion in its purest crystalline essence” (Cisneros 239). Before getting married, Cleofilas’ life consisted of never ending chores, putting up with her brothers and her father’s complaining. She did not have the life that she sought. When she married Juan Pedro, she thought her life would shift and be like the ones from the telenovelas. The influence of beautiful women in the soap operas is also seen when Cleofilas decides to make a change: “Does she dye her hair you think?” (Cisneros 239) Cleofilas’ decision to dye her hair shows that she is not content with her looks and appearance. She has an image that women from the telenovelas possess wonderful lives in both love and romance, only because they are beautiful and dye their hair like “Lucia Mendez” (239). Cleofilas’ husband doesn’t appear to look like the handsome men from the soap operas: “His face still scarred from acne…this man who farts and belches and snores as well…who doesn’t care at all for the telenovelas” (Cisneros 241). This shows that Cleofilas wants her husband to watch the soap operas and be influenced by them like she is. The fact that Cleofilas mentions he does not like the soap operas shows how much she desires for her husband to be more like the men in the telenovelas. Having a different name would have probably made a difference in Cleofilas’ life: “Somehow she would have to change her name to Topazio, or Yesenia, Cristal, Adriana, Stefania, Andrea, or something more poetic”(Cisneros 243). Cleofilas thought that good things happened to women who were named after jewels, nothing good would happen to a girl with a name like Cleofilas.
From the very beginning, Cisneros exposes the control of the father, over to his daughter. In México and the United States, the life of Cleófilas is marked by a male-dominated society: “…look south, and dream of returning to the chores that never ended, six good-for-nothing brothers and one old man complaining” (248). In Cleófilas’s family, their conservative views about women mean that all the boys are outside helping their father, and women are virtual prisoners inside their homes, doing chores. In these times, women are not even allowed to be functioning members of society, just tend to their husbands. The men ask something, and the women obediently do it. In addition, Cisneros’s own life experiences reflect their concept: “‘Born in Chicago in 1954, Cisneros grew up with six brothers and one father, or “seven fathers,” as she puts it’” (“Becoming a Latina Writer” 247). She also wrote that she was the “keeper of six swans,” as she ironically found out her name was translated to the meaning: “Keeper of the Swans”...
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