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Malinche
by charlasweb (charlasweb)
at May 30th, 2006 (10:43 am)
contemplative

current mood: contemplative

Okay, so I finished Malinche and started Son of a Witch.   It was a good weekend to get reading done, what will all the procrastinating and pretending I wasn't going back to work today.

In Chicano/a literature, there are three main female characters that are used over and over again.  

The Virgin: Most often, this is the Virgen de Guadelupe
The Mother: Sometimes this is the Virgen de Guadelupe, other times it's La Llorona
The Whore: Most often this is Malinche's role, the role of Mallinalli in the novel

Often at least one of these characters is the primary focus of the novel.  There's also a whole lot of virgin/whore conflict in this literature.

I think that the thing I like most about this book is the way it deals with these archetypes, showing the conflict, blending them together.  It makes the claim through example that women are more than one, they are a combination of these archetypes.  Most often Malinche (or Mallinalli) is looked on as a traitor to her people, Cortes's whore, and the  reason the Aztecs were defeated.  Esquivel seems to try to combat this view of her protagonist as skewed and simplified, a definition given to her by men who didn't understand her.

I also like the explanation of how Spanish traditions were layered over Aztec traditions.  Tonantzin becomes Guadelupe, etc.   This is actually fairly common in this literature, but I'm always fascinated by it.

What I didn't like is that, compared to Like Water for Chocolate, this novel seemed a little flat and unimaginative.  I know that she did quite a bit of research for the book, and maybe that had a negative effect.  At times, she seems more impressed with her own ability to explain the roles of different Aztec gods/goddesses than interested in telling a compelling and interesting story.  She relies on some tired plot devices that just don't come across as believable and she drops others completely.  For example, what the hell happened to Mallinalli's father?  I get that he died, but how?  This is important.  

So, in a nutshell, there are glimmers of greatness in this book, but for me- it was a disappointment.  Perhaps my expectations were too great.  Perhaps it's a sophomore slump.  What did you think?

Comments

Posted by: PeppermintGloom (peppermintgloom)
Posted at: May 30th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC)

I finished Malinche yesterday; I'm still waiting on Son of a Witch. Whoever has that book needs to hurry up!

I was disappointed with Malinche as well. I've never read anything by Esquivel before, so I didn't really have particular expectations, but I did know a little bit about the story of La Malinche from the research I did when I taught American Lit. I, that she was widely regarded to be a traitor to her people. I suppose if I did have any expectations when I picked the book up, it was that it might be sort of like Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, giving Malinalli's side of the story; I was a bit surprised to get some of Cortes's perspective.

It's funny that you use the word flat. The word that I was thinking of to describe the book was "dense." I think it amounts to pretty much the same thing.

Why do you think the way Malinalli's father died is important? I don't know that Esquivel thought it was.

Posted by: charlasweb (charlasweb)
Posted at: May 31st, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
books

Whoever has that book needs to hurry up!

Yes, because I finished it last night, and I'm ready to dish. Don't worry though... I'll be good and wait. I just had to finish reading it so I could get on with my life and prep for classes, etc.

I'm sorry that this is the only Esquivel you've read. Like Water for Chocolate is very good, although the recipes at the beginning of every chapter might not be helpful, considering the bootcamp, etc.

I was hoping for A Red Tent approach to this novel as well, but clearly we didn't get it. You're right about dense and flat resulting in the same feel. It's like she was so excited by her ability to research, she forgot she was telling a story.

As for the father, I'm not sure that it was important. It just seemed like a dropped storyline. He seems important at the beginning of the story when Mallinalli is born; then he's just gone. We get no other mention of him, although she does confront her mother. I guess that my main complaint about the novel was that the story seemed to suffer at the hand of the research. I think she included the information about Cortes because she had it and couldn't resist showing off. It's like we tell our students, no matter how fantastic something is... if it doesn't fit your story/paper, you need to cut it. Maybe I'm wrong though, and she did think it fit and never intended to write a Red Tent type of story at all.

The other thing that annoyed me was there were times that it seemed to turn from a literary novel into a Harlequinn Romance. Never, under any circumstances, should a writer refer to a penis as a "member" and expect to be taken seriously.

Posted by: PeppermintGloom (peppermintgloom)
Posted at: June 3rd, 2006 05:52 am (UTC)

Ah, I see what you mean about the father now. She did kind of drop the ball on that storyline. Maybe she meant to mention that he had been a human sacrifice, and she never got around to developing that part of the story? (I don't know; it sounds good, though.)

Never, under any circumstances, should a writer refer to a penis as a "member" and expect to be taken seriously.
Exactly. I can't remember if you were in the basement when we wrote the terrible romance novel and tried to come up with as many horrible euphemisms for penis as possible. As you might expect, hilarity ensued. I'm reminded of this every time I read a novel wherin the author uses the word "member" in place of penis.

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