Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

"Nobody's Mother and Nobody's Wife": Reconstructing Archetypes and Sexuality in Sandra Cisneros' "Never Marry a Mexican"

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

"Nobody's Mother and Nobody's Wife": Reconstructing Archetypes and Sexuality in Sandra Cisneros' "Never Marry a Mexican"

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Mythical and historical archetypes of women are engrained in Mexican culture and thus have become a part of Mexican fiction, poetry, music, and art. These archetypes prominently include La Malinche ("the traitorous woman"), La Llorona ("the bad mother"), and La Virgen de Guadalupe ("the good mother"). These figures are used as educational tools to teach Mexicanas how they should or should not behave. (1) The traditionally "proper" role of a Mexican woman is to be submissive to the male figures in her life, to be sexually inactive, and to take care of the home and children. A woman who breaks out of these constraints is someone who is considered a whore--a woman whom men will use for sex but will never marry.

In Sandra Cisneros' collection, Women Hollering Creek, she employs such archetypes not to instruct girls on how to behave properly, but rather to questions society's construction of them, and in turn, a Mexicana's sexuality. In "Never Marry a Mexican," Cisneros uses the figures of La Malinche, Santa Lucia, and more subtly La Llorona in parallel with the narrator to complicate the reader's view of these archetypes. She does not allow the narrator to become a mold of them, but rather reshuffles the reader's conception of the myths themselves. The use of these mythical characters, however, may in fact alienate the non-Mexicana reader for the fact that she does not understand the cultural and social implications of the figures. Also, as Harryette Mullen has noted, the Spanish language entwined in the piece gives Spanish power by barricading the English-speaking reader (3). Therefore, by not understanding the Spanish in the text as well as the references to Mexican archetypes, the story segregates the non-Mexicana and she becomes part of the out-group, while the Mexicana becomes the in-group; a reversal of roles in our Westernized world. Likewise, Cisneros may be distancing some of her Mexicana readers because the narrator she uses goes against the grain of what the Mexican culture says a woman should be. This narrator is a woman who is strong-willed, sexual, and not satisfied playing the traditional role of a Mexican woman. She does, however, struggle to find her place and identity between the virgin and the whore.

Because a non-Mexicana reader cannot fully comprehend the cultural and social connotations of Cisneros' story, I will explicate them in the subsequent pages to bridge the literary gap between cultures. I will first look at gender roles in Mexican society, provide an overview of archetypes in Mexican literature, and then specifically discuss the La Malinche archetype by focusing on her biography and the ways in which she has been transformed by authors over the centuries. Finally, the latter half of the article will focus on Cisneros' story, "Never Marry a Mexican" and how the narrator defines and complicates not only female archetypes and their sexuality, but also the heavy burden that a Mexicana carries for being a woman; a five-hundred-year-old burden Cisneros is acutely--and perhaps personally--aware of.

TRADITIONAL GENDER ROLES IN MEXICAN SOCIETY

Historically, Mexican and Chicano societies are said by social scientists to have rigid gender roles that form the basis of their culture. Although contemporary Mexican society and populations in metropolitan areas may not adhere to societal roles of the past, traditional communities still exist where women are expected to be confined to their household duties of cleaning, cooking, and raising children. on the other hand, men are supposed to be the financial providers and therefore rule the family and home. They are regarded with both fear and respect since they will use physical force against both wives and children if they deviate from "proper" behavior (Mirande and Enriquez 110). Men are free to live the life of a bachelor even if they are married, and are thus expected to drink, fight, and have sex with other women. …

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