Academic journal article Bilingual Review

Argument in Narrative: Tropology in Jovita Gonzalez's Caballero

Academic journal article Bilingual Review

Argument in Narrative: Tropology in Jovita Gonzalez's Caballero

Article excerpt

Trouble rode in Texas, on a fresh mount. It galloped over the plains, lay at ambush in the hills, stalked the mesquite thickets, camped at the water holes, swaggered and strutted in the towns. Trouble whispered to the domineering Anglo, to the marauding Indian, to the mercurial, high-tempered Mexican. Trouble kindled the fire beneath a pot where simmered racial antagonism, religious fanaticisms, wrongs fancied and wrongs real--and brought it from the simmer to boiling, up to the edge and spilling over.

Jovita Gonzai1ez, in collaboration with Eve Raleigh, began work on Caballero: A Historical Novel in 1934, when she received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to research and write a book on South Texas history and culture. To gather information, she interviewed residents in the South Texas area in which she was born and raised.

Briefly, Caballero tells the story of what happens within an aristocratic family living in a large hacienda in the Mexican territory when they learn that their land has become the state of Texas and that they have now become americanos. The action begins shortly after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1846 had ceded the territory of Texas to the United States. The hacienda is headed by a proud patriarch, Don Santiago de Mendoza y Soria, and his household consists of his wife, a plain and meek woman, Dona Maria Petronilla; his outspoken widowed sister, Dolores; his two sons, Alvaro, a caballero, and Luis Gonzaga, an artist, two daughters, Maria de los Angeles, who is forbidden to become a nun, and Susanita. The conflict begins when Don Santiago refuses to accept that the americanos have taken over Texas and defeated Santa Anna. He prohibits any contact with the "foreigner," allows his oldest son to become a guerrillero and rejects any compromise to his traditions and beliefs about proper family roles. The nov el relates the intrigues within Don Santiago's household to deceive him, his daughters by falling in love with American soldiers and his son and servants by consorting with American soldiers. The women and peons look forward to some type of emancipation by the americanos, and the old, arrogant patriarchs, fearing for their lives and their loss of power, tighten their control and vigilance over their families and their households. Most of the characters developed in the novel change and adapt to new circumstances. However, the allegorical archetypes, Don Santiago, the patriarch, and Alvaro, the caballero, cannot change to meet the new political and social circumstances. Unable to adapt, they die tragically, refusing to question their beliefs and behaviors.

The study not only places Caballero within the nineteenth-century historical context of its story, but also considers the authors' twentieth-century historical point of view that was shaped by late nineteenth-century beliefs in determinist, stadialist, and historical relations.

The argument and proofs in Caballero reinforce the feminist premise that women, in spite of race or class, should not be coerced by friends or guardians, and that a woman's consent regarding the most important decisions of her life should always result from her free agency. Viewed aesthetically, the novel's theme compels readers to question the "place" and "natural" capacities of women as established by the tradition of patriarchy by Spanish, Mexican, and American cultures. Similar to other historical romances, Caballero's argument "puts on trial not only the strength of their women but also the wisdom and compassion of their respective communities." (1) The two sisters, Maria de los Angeles and Susanita, and their aunt, Dolores, represent personal and cultural antitypes because in spite of their fears of condemnation and ostracism from their cultural group, they rebel against customs and tradition, fully prepared for the consequences of their rebellion.

Viewed rhetorically, Caballero makes three major claims: Rigid patriarchal privilege is harmful and destructive; silencing and subjugating people forces them to use deception; and women, who share the characteristics of conquered people, will accommodate in some way to the conquerors' hegemony in order to ensure the survival of their families. …

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