Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

The Revolutionary Empowerment of Nature in Gioconda Belli's the Inhabited Woman

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

The Revolutionary Empowerment of Nature in Gioconda Belli's the Inhabited Woman

Article excerpt

By applying Mikhail Bahktin's literary theory to The Inhabited Woman, this essay illustrates the way in which Belli's work empowers nature as a speaking subject and, reflecting the beliefs of Native American cultures, restores the important relationship between human society and the natural world.

**********

Whether through poetry or narrative, Gioconda Belli has consistently addressed two main (and revolutionary) concerns in her work: the Sandinista struggle for liberation of her native Nicaragua and the feminist effort to gain equal footing with men in a patriarchal society. In addition to these two themes, however, there is a third key element present throughout Belli's work that often has been overlooked or underestimated by critics. This element is nature and in The Inhabited Woman (La mujer habitada), her first novel and bestseller, the connections that exist between human beings and the natural world are as important to the narrative as are the relations that bind humans to one another. In this novel, nature is not only inseparable from the political and social dimensions of the texts, it is actually presented as a character. By applying Mikhail Bakhtin's literary theory to The Inhabited Woman, the following analysis considers the way in which Belli empowers nature as a speaking subject and restores the important relationship between society and the natural world.

Set in a fictitious country called Faguas, The Inhabited Woman presents the stories of two women, Lavinia and Itza, through two distinct narratives. The first story is told in the third person, by an omniscient narrator, and recounts the events that took place over the span of one year in the life of Lavinia, a twenty-three year-old woman of the upper-class. To Timothy Richards, this narrative is a female bildunsroman since "through a progressively more comprehensive involvement in her society, [the protagonist] learns to distinguish the true from the false in her and the world around her" (209). Indeed, Lavinia carries out her own feminist revolution by refusing to consider marriage and choosing to be independent. She lives by herself and works as an architect. Her lover, Felipe, introduces her to the Movement--a revolutionary group whose mission is to overthrow the military dictatorship ruling the country. Eventually, the young woman grows to accept and embrace the principles of the revolution and joins the Movement. In the end, and shortly after Felipe is killed, Lavinia dies for the cause she has chosen to support. The second story runs parallel to and intertwines with the first. Its first person narrator, and protagonist, is Itza, an indigenous woman who lived over four hundred years ago in the territory that has become Faguas. Speaking from within the orange tree growing in Lavinia's garden, the young Texoxe Indian tells the story of the suffering her people endured at the hands of the Spanish invaders in the sixteenth century, and their efforts to resist them. Through her narrative, it becomes apparent that Itza, as Lavinia, rebelled against the norms of her society by being a warrior and following her lover, Yarince, into battle. Tragically, and also like Lavinia, Itza died in the struggle for national liberation.

From the brief summary of the novel presented above, it is easy to understand why critics have concentrated on the political and feminist dimensions of The Inhabited Woman. Yet, given that part of the message of the novel is delivered through the orange tree, the element of nature in Belli's text has also caught the attention of a number of scholars. Kathleen March, for example, considers the orange tree a symbol of "womanhood from the pre-patriarchal period when the Goddess was Mother Earth, giver of life (and not Eve, seductress of Adam)." To her, the presence of the tree in the text is crucial because it "gives rise to a series of themes, such as reproduction or creation, the unfettered giving of one's body (fruit or flesh) for another's sustenance or pleasure" (146). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.