Wednesday, 5 October 2011

English 202 - Woman Hollering Creek


'The day Don Serafin gave Juan Pedro Martinez Sanchez permission to take Cleofilas Enriquesta DeLion Hernanez as his bride, across her father's threshold, over several miles of dirt road and several miles of paced, over one border and beyond to a town en el otro lado -- on the other side-- already did he diving the morning his daughter would raise her hand over her eyes, look south, and dream of returning to the chores that never ended, six good-for-nothing brothers, and one old man's complaints.'
So begins Woman Hollering Creek by Sanda Cisneros.

I chose this passage to practice 'close reading' with because it's the first paragraph, and thus often holds the key to the entire story. After discussing several other passages in class, I still felt like this one was special, partly because of the foreshadowing, partly because of the point of view. The characterization also plays a part in why I think this paragraph is important to the story as a whole.

The foreshadow is more vague than it might seem at first glance. It hints at a future time when Cleofilas - who we don't yet know as readers - may be unhappy with her marriage and will want to come home. However, the tone is purposely vague. Will that moment of longing be purely nostalgic? Will it be the normal hum-drum feeling that can visit a couple after the first flame of romance has passed? Cisneros foreshadows, but she only foreshadows more questions.

It also characterizes the father, and - since he is not actively present throughout most of the story - hints at the larger culture of their family, perhaps their town. He isn't a romantic, it's perfectly clear, and knows that his daughter will be disappointed. Not only disappointed, but very far away. There's a self-deprecating quality to his worry, as well. He refers to himself as a complaining old man, and knows that even though he and the brothers aren't a perfect life, she still will miss them.

The point of view is also important. It's limited omniscient, giving us the father's point of view but nothing else. It hints at what Cleofilas's point of view may be (and the diction hints that it will come to pass 'divine' - a word with predictive connotations - rather than 'guess') but it's told through the father's. It then shifts two paragraphs later and doesn't return.

It also, in its way, characterizes Cleofilas. She is young here, her naiveté is implied but not said outright. She will long for home one day, the father believes. It also implies that, for now, she is happy to be leaving.

The distance Cleofilas will travel takes up a good half of the paragraph. The father's obsession with the distance seems to emphasis his worry (a justified worry), saying how far he and those he knows can protect her (the brothers) will be from their sister. How they are, in a sense, just as helpless as she is.



My discussion question is: why start with the father's point of view? How does that enhance the story?


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