I believe the theme of the story is that Sophia feels it is her right to explore her sexuality however she pleases and to have an independent life, no matter what her father thinks. The writer uses setting to narrow the underlying idea, the theme. In this story, there are two different settings. The first one is in Sophia’s father’s home where she gets scolded for having love letters. Her father finds them and asks if she has been deflowered and if she is a whore. He cannot tolerate her sexuality. Sophia rips the letters out of his hands and tells him that is none of his business. She then leaves her father’s home, representing her desire to have her own independence. The second is in her own home where she publicly humiliates her father as she flaunts her sexuality in front of their guests. Sexual contact between a father and daughter is considered incest; she also flirts with breaking this taboo when she arouses his desire with the kiss. She felt the need to draw attention to his inability to control her sexual behavior. She also felt the need to break tradition. Every year for her father’s birthday, the girls and their father would get together, just them. No husbands or children would be invited, the daughters came alone. “So for one night every November the daughters turned back into their father’s girls in the cramped living room, surrounded by the dark oversized furniture from the old house they grew up in, they were children again in a smaller, simpler version of the world”. (Alvarez 1991) Well, on this birthday Sophia wanted to celebrate his birthday at her house, not his. She wanted husbands and children, along with many other people, not just them alone. I don’t think it was her intention to humiliate her father, but with both of them holding onto the past, I knew something was bound to happen. The characters make particular aspects of the underlying idea clear. At the party the father is playing games with his daughters. He is blind folded and one daughter at a time kisses his cheek, then he guesses which daughter it was. Each time they do this, he goes down the list of each daughter. Except for Sophia, he never mentions her name. This of course makes her very angry. “After all her hard work, she was not to be included in his daughter count. Damn him! She’d take her turn and make him know it was her! Quickly, she swooped into the circle and have the old man a wet, open-mouthed kiss in his ear. She ran her tongue in the whorls of his ear and nibbled the tip. Then she moved back” (Alvarez 1991) The father may be trying to put the past behind him, but it is clear that he cannot.
Sophia’s ongoing conflict with her father represents a struggle for control of her sexuality. It also represents the father’s lose of control over his daughter’s sexuality. Sophia feels that it is her right to explore her sexuality however she pleases while also enjoying the privacy and independence of adulthood. Her father thinks that the presence of loose women in his house disrespects his parental and male authority. Over the years they both tried to leave their past, but Sophia cannot forgive her father for his insulting and overbearing attitudes. Her father cannot tolerate her overt expression of her sexuality as a mature woman.
Journey into Literature. “The Kiss” Julia Alvarez 1991