Saturday, October 9, 2004

The Yellow Wallpaper and Melancia - writings about pregnancy!


Wish to be mother. Curious of being mother. I will be a mother some day!

The text that you are about to read is a "reading response" about a short storie called YELLOW WALL PAPER:

Women’s bodies and mind face great changes during and after pregnancy. In Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” post-partum depression is discussed as one of the traumas that pregnancy might cause. The protagonist agonizes by having hallucinations seen through images depicted in bright yellow wallpaper in her bedroom, apparently caused by this condition. Moreover, she does not feel prepared for the motherhood.

The post-partum trauma has been just recently well studied. There are even cases that the mother wishes to kill her own baby. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the mother does not feel ready to take care of him. She desperately needs to stay alone, preferably in the bedroom where she can wonder images from the wallpaper. Since this story was written in the 19th century, her condition was seen as a mere illness. Her husband does not collaborate much, besides he denies her request of changing the wallpaper. John, the husband, complicates her recovery by not letting her live normally.

The mother’s situation does not improve with time. The wallpaper suffocated her so intensely that I could not believe what she has to say: “I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store (Gilman 172).”

Hence her post-partum condition, she resigns towards John. Historically women were dominated by the opposite sex for years and years. The mother in the short story follows the standard female character built in each woman of those times. She is “forced” to not understand her condition without even noticing that. The color and distinct shapes of the wallpaper haunted her “psychological being”, betraying her own body’s will: “I’m feeling ever so much better! I don’t sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime (Gilman 168).”

Her husband denies, even unconsciously, helping her recovery. It is very disappointing to know how women have been neglected, rejected, and confused for so many years. The protagonist offers vulnerability only: “he laughs at me so about this wallpaper (Gilman 161).” John is in every man when ignorance becomes his main power. Gilman’s description is excellent, the house, garden, the room, color, textures, etc. Yet, the author confuses us a little, as readers, by having written a supposing ghost short story. In fact, back in old times, most of the psychological disturbances were treated as having witchcraft or haunting origins.

Work Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. 4th Ed. Fort Worth: Harco

Friday, October 8, 2004

"CLARA" - A book by Luisa Valenzuela

Well, since books are my obsession. I think it's about time to post a reading response about "CLARA" - a narrative fiction about a very naïve lady. It sometimes reminds me "A HORA DA ESTRELA" by Clarice Lispector. It's a must-read work.

I. PRESENTATION
Luisa Valenzuela’s novel “Clara” is an interesting literary work, which was developed during the sixties. The author was twenty-one years old when she finished it. Clara (the title) is the main character’s name. The word clara in Spanish, besides being a proper name, is an adjective that means enlightened, clear, pure, and well understood. The magic of this novel lies on these points: Clara’s life is brutally dark, and her dreams are not understood at all. Valenzuela’s techniques of playing with opposite ideas will be the focus of the discussion in this paper.

It is almost impossible to define what Latin American literature represents, since it is a combination of different tendencies, and made of a spectrum of materials. Although, Valenzuela’s literary work is essentially Latin American (qualifying it) because it tells stories of her people. The author’s background (she is Argentinean) helps molding characters, settings, time frame, and the plot. In “Clara”, Luisa Valenzuela does not escape from that. Moreover, she brings about a relationship towards her characters.
The 60's were the time when women became more evident, and her role more important, in the process of mobility of the social classes. That was also the time of massive political reaction in South American countries. Censorship and lack of democracy boost creativity in arts, generally speaking. Writers, musicians, poets, journalists had to develop new codes (metaphors, metonymies, or symbolism) in order to express their minds. In this novel, the author’s literary strategies will be seen as a game where opposites play. The historical facts and information of her personal life will be fundamental for this comprehension.
II. LUISA VALENZUELA
Argentina is located in South America (see appendix) with approximately 40 million habitants. Its economy is considerably based on agricultural produce (cereals and meat), and mineral extraction. The capital is Buenos Aires. Facing the Atlantic Ocean only, its seacoast is not so extensive and does not present a tropical climate.

Clara is an Argentinean woman who leaves her parent’s home when still young. She seeks a dream. Luisa Valenzuela is a famous writer for creating simple characters full of dreams and expectations. Clara’s ultimate dream: to know the ocean. Her father promises to take her to the beach since her childhood.
Luisa Valenzuela writes novels and short stories. Her favorite topics are tales of simple people from the low classes, death, and prostitution. Ironically (or not), Valenzuela is anything but poor. “Since childhood, Luisa Valenzuela has been exposed to literature. Her mother, Luisa Mercedes Levinson, was a well-known writer; her father, was a physician. Among the close friends who visited their home was Jorge Luis Borges”. (Gautier 295) She started working as a journalist at the age of fifteen. She gave up the press later in her life for not being allowed to free her writing during Argentina Peronista.
She moves then to Iowa (US) to attend a creative writing course. Later, she gets married and lives in Paris for four years, mostly housekeeping and writing journals, which became this and two more novels “Lizard’s Tail” and “The book that does not bite”.
“Clara” is Luisa’s very first novel. While interviewed by Magdalena G. Pinto, the writer confesses being very young when she wrote it. Therefore, she lacked some literary techniques, which made it a bit repetitive with irrelevant circumstances. (201) The labor of prostitutes is a repetition of circumstances in itself. Some circumstances might be irrelevant; some might not. Observe this piece of Valenzuela’s novel:

"It would be nicer to go to the zoo, or to the movies. Right near the hotel there was a cinema with continuous shows where you could see the same movie three times in a row. Exactly what she needed: that way, there wasn’t a single detail left out. The first time she looked at the pictures; the second time she read the subtitles; and the third time she tried to do everything at once and figure out what the story was about." (Valenzuela 23)
“Clara” is brilliant because it presents a powerful story with a well-constructed ending. It tells about the crude reality of the Argentinean underground. Its engine functions through a tension between opposites: women Vs men, vast Vs uptight, freedom Vs prison, warm Vs cold, etc.

III. CLARA
Clara left home at the age of eighteen. She runs away and can not afford to travel to the closest beach. So, she finds herself lonely in a larger city somewhere in Argentina with absolutely no skills, nor protection against life’s danger. She awoken dreams of how majestically the ocean might be. And as the waves of the sea swings objects on the water, she is taken to the prostitution world. So many men who promise to drive her to the ocean exploit Clara. At this point, Valenzuela promotes a change of setting, but does not offer a change of state.

The young woman moves out of her house for not accepting her father’s cheating ways, but in the streets, she is continuously dominated and humiliated by male figures: Victor, Carlos, Tono Cruz, Don Mario, Cacho, Alejandro (a magician/fortune teller). She marries Alejandro though, the only male character who directs her to a different life style. He marries her so she may work as his partner for magic tricks. They become known with the box trick, where large razors are inserted giving the impression of cutting three layers of the person’s body, who is in the box.
Again it is possible to see the confrontation between two opposites. Clara seeks the ocean, which is vast and symbolizes freedom. Nevertheless, she is kept locked in hotel rooms or in magic boxes, where she is metaphorically exploited by pieces. Even though she reaches the ocean, it was at a cold rainy night, while she cries for having had a fight with her husband.
"Dark, lonely, cold. Dark, lonely, cold. Each step was a painful echo that repeated the litany. Rain had soaked her clothing and was running down her back. The only warmth came from her own tears, streaming abundantly and blocking her vision; even her own tears were conspiring against her. They grew cold, making frigid tracks down her cheeks." (Valenzuela 157)

The author divides Clara’s story in three parts called: The Body, Transition, and The Head, as in the magician’s box trick. The final part is absurdly named “The Head” because this is how it ends. She dramatically tries to kill Alejandro during his sleep with a razor. But, as in a trick, she falls asleep and he becomes the slaughter instead of the victim. Her head is being cut off on her throat while she wanders: “It’s my destiny, after all. It’s no use trying to escape it any more, or trying to scream or defend myself. I’m going to be the head without a body, without tricks or mirrors.” (Valenzuela 159)
IV. THE HEAD
History has shown that women had been dominated by the male figure since the earliest days. The 20th Century changed this reality in a general sense. There are still obstacles that seem to be impossible to get over, the glass ceiling for instance. Some Marxist-feminists say that women fought all these years to become as exploited as their opposite figures. Is there any seen progress by having more women sharing the power? Or, are women struggling to become the same thing and not really making the difference?
These questions were not asked in “Clara” explicitly. However, Luisa Valenzuela wrote this novel during her housekeeping years (mid 60s.) During a whole period of history means had been sought to free women from domestic bonds. Luisa was young, had traveled, and all of a sudden found herself enclosed in one of the most famous cities in the world: Paris – the city lights (Clara.) The author must let her main character have her head decapitated literally in a desperate ending. Clara’s husband cuts off her only possession. He takes from her not only her life but also her capacity of changes. The only instrument that no men (Victor, Carlos, etc) could exploit. Even more absurdly, all that happened right after she had seen the ocean, her ultimate dream, which was stimulated by her father.
This dream/obsession of knowing the sea can be read as an intense search for identity. Clara knows the ocean as much as she knows about her world, her condition, herself. She does not actually play in Valenzuela’s game; she is unconsciously forced to it. “Clara” will be always a recent literary work because it is true light, a true life, and a true condition of life.
Alejandro, the slaughter, is her husband. No men treated her so violently as he did. Yes, Clara had suffered all kind of abuses, but he goes beyond our acceptance. He kills the magic. He ends the story. Furthermore, Alejandro had killed her long time before the actual assassination. Because he betrayed her, like her father did to her mother. Her marriage represented an end to her “sexual freedom”. Living a prostitute life introduced Clara to a different, adventurous, and false happy life. Every man she encountered, she believed having loved each one of him.

V. CONCLUSION
According to Simone de Beauvoir in her philosophical book “The Second Sex”, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women demanded that equality in rights of the two sexes be recognized in all countries. It would seem that the game is won: the game of the opposites. The future can only lead to a more and more assimilation of woman into our once masculine society. (135) Or the female figure would have become more and more masculine into this still masculine society since many women are to face difficult machismo barriers, for instance the role of pimps in the prostitution world.
In Luisa Valenzuela’s game there were not winners. For her, there was not even an end. In the preface of “Clara”, in the edition I have read, she wrote: “When I was twenty-one I knew nothing about the open ending as a literary technique, but no doubt that’s what I wrote. Each reader has the right to finish the novel as he sees fit, although even today I still believe (as I did yesterday) that Clara doesn’t die: there’s no more effective weapon than confusion against someone who thinks he’s the sole possessor of all truths.”
Following this opinion, another possibility of comprehension of “Clara” is that Luisa works with ambiguities, not opposites. “I am always trying to present different possibilities and sufficient ambiguity in writing, so that the reader can add his own level of reading to the work.” (Gautier 298) Her text perfectly opens many windows. Latin American literature, as I mentioned in the beginning of this discussion, is a combination of different tendencies. It has suffered influences from old literary works as well as it has influenced new ones. It can’t be defined, as it would represent a big mass of the same thing. The term Latin American literature just represents the geographic area or the culture from where it is originated or from whom it is created.
Valenzuela had not developed “Clara” in Argentina, although the story happens there. That is why it is considered Latin, and also absurd, and for some critics - surreal. The spectrum of interpretations is given through the language. Because our author follows the basic principals of the creative writing, which is write what you don’t know you know. She has never experienced the life of a prostitute, but she can easily create one with language. During an interview for a television program she quotes Martin Buber and completes: “In creation, I discover. The conscious carries many secrets and the language unveils them for you – so live in the unconscious. It’s the muse. One minute we know what the unconscious is, something very intelligent.”
Not only she writes creatively, but also she engages with her characters. They obviously can’t die because they are part of her. Clara is not only a naïve young woman from the country who is unconsciously forced to exchange sex for money. She is the symbol of the fragility, something that feminist women would never have the courage to discus about.
Clara is dark and misunderstood. She is full of expectations, but she does not live long enough. She seeks freedom, however spent most of her life in kitchens, cheap hotel rooms or magic boxes. Valenzuela placed Clara in a game. This game had two competitors: men Vs women. It was the game of opposites. Clara never noticed it.

WORKS CITED

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. New York: Knopf, 1953. 447-628.
Gautier, Marie-Lise G. Interviews with Latin American Writers. Elmwood Park: The Dalkey Archive Press, 1989. 295-322.
Pinto Magdalena G. Women Writers of Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991. 194-221.
Valenzuela, Luisa. Clara. Translated by Andrea Labinger. Pittsburg: Latin American Literary Review Press, 1999.Home Video “Luisa Valenzuela, su vida y trabajo”, 1992


Here I am

Well, I might be kind of old to have blogs and stuff. Or maybe not. I am just 28 and I can't agree that there is any specific age or period of time to do the things you wish to.
Certainly it's more than interesting to share my thoughts, my writings, my experience through words. There is no other reason why I've decided to start this stupid blog on this web which I love significantly.
Below, you'll find a composition that I developed in 1998. I located it the other day. It's a crap piece of writing but there you will get to know the kind of person I am:
"Why should I write about life? OK! I should write and that’s all. I like writing but it could be better if I could have chosen my own topic for this essay. This is not a big problem. I’ll try to do my best. Life! There’s nothing in my mind about it. Maybe I do not want anything from life... I should just enjoy it. We don’t have to spend our time with foolish things, because life is short and it’s impossible to keep actions, just pictures in our memory. I am not sure if I’m able to write about what I want from life, but I think it’s time. Actually, to write about life makes me a little homesick. I always start to remember my country, my life, my friends and that’s why it’s getting difficult for me to think about my own and simple life. I’ve already grown up and now I can feel myself less immature. I’m not a child anymore, I am just 22 years old. I finished my college in my country just last year, but I couldn’t find job there.


Now I have a profession. I can work as a journalist if I want to. But I’m still not sure about my choice. In my culture we have to choose our job very early. The point is I had to think about my work when I was too young to decide. That’s why I am writing about my job and about my life. Life is such a difficult subject to write about. But for me, in my own opinion, life and work come together. When we are not happy with our job, certainly we are not happy with our lives. I would like to enjoy my life a little bit more.

I would like to be working at this time, and maybe I could be happier than before. I must be wrong but for me, to get a good life means to have money and time enough to do whatever and whenever we want. Of course that getting a good life also means to have good brains and eyes to realize our past and future. Actually I’m a little confused because, for now, I can’t see my future without a job. So, I need to make money and I don’t know how. Do you know what I really want from life? Some chance to find out what was made for me. I want a house, a family, a good car, health insurance, like every common person. But at first I need a profession which fits me like a glove, just to earn money and make me satisfied.

I want from life a little peace of mind. Sometimes it’s possible to find out our right way to live when we’re young, but it didn’t happen to me. I don’t know why but my parents took good care about me and for several times I couldn’t help myself when I needed it. They just did it for me. I understand them. They just wanted to make me safe. But now... I want more chance from life to learn and make me stronger. Yes... That it is so true!"

My hometown deserves a few changes...

I was born in Brazil, one of all most beautiful countries in the world. That country is really huge and it’s such an interesting place. Our territory is divided by 26 states. I used to live in Sao Paulo state. The capital of my state is also named Sao Paulo. It’s the second largest city in the world. There are twenty million people living there. It is the richest and most industrious place in Brazil.

São Paulo state is located in the South of my country, where the weather is enjoyable. But, unfortunately, my hometown is not the capital. My town is located in the countryside, something like eight hundred kilometers from the sea coast. It seems far, but Brazil is so big that that long distances are never amazing. My hometown is small, there are just 40 thousand people there. It’s a kind of boring place, that’s why I would like to change a lot of things there.

First of all, I would change its name: Presidente Venceslau. Weird, isn’t it? Yes, it is. It’s the name of one of our presidents. He was our president in the beginning of the last century. In my country, people have this kind of habit, to honor important personalities, putting their names in cities, schools, streets or libraries. There are no problems with that. But the point is to honor bad leaders as ex-dictators and anti-democratic politicians like this president.

Then I would change our main economy, I mean, the way of production. For example, our main economy is to raise cows, bulls, and sheep and to grow sugar-cane. This is really troublesome because this kind of economy doesn’t create jobs, or at least jobs that people can earn a fair salary to afford good education and even to pay all necessary bills. But they can survive somehow, working in two or three different places like restaurants, shops or housework.

Another thing is to suggest a great project for the environment and leisure. Everyone could learn how to recycle all kind of materials. And after, the government could build public spaces for recreation, like parks, artificial lakes with many threes and culture clubs. It would be also very important to make everybody respect the new traffic laws. For example, it’s illegal to drive without fasting the seat belts now. And it’s quite hard to make each person understand that. Probably, it would be interesting if all can get classes to know a little bit more about the new laws.

If I could change all of those things, I’d come back my hometown immediately, because it is a really safe place to live and to raise children.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Reasons to write. If you haven't found reasons to do it, maybe I can help in that matter...

My dream future is happening right now, just as I speak (or blog). The world may become one nation while I am here trying to prepare myself to understand, be part of, and survive in this historical moment. My writings have become my instrument to conquer my space. I have seen many things in life, but not everything that there is to see. This is what brought me to this practice; the possibility of learning how to play this instrument (writing) accurately and sophisticatedly. I've always believed that writing allows one to live different experiences, breathe in distant drafts, and step on exotic soils. Writing is so powerful. Besides, I am enchanted with this media technology called webblogs. Blogs are useful reading because it is a language that entertains, amuses, and even teaches about new places, cultures, and other people's ways to see life through without killing the magic of the moment. Here, you'll read old letters I received, past emails sent, school and college projects that made me proud of my 3.8 GPA, my mad poems which will be part of a "maybe-book" named THE PAWNSHOP (got the picture?), and other epiphanies. Through my writings, I have gotten the capacity to organize this whole wide world, to plan the chaos, and give meaning to all facts in my life.