The Desert and the Seed: Three Stories by Rudolfo Anaya

By Materassi, Mario | Journal of the Southwest, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

The Desert and the Seed: Three Stories by Rudolfo Anaya


Materassi, Mario, Journal of the Southwest


Conceivably, Rudolfo Anaya's accomplishment as a master craftsman has been somewhat overshadowed by his steadfast example as an author deeply imbued with his native Chicano culture, and by an oeuvre rich in absorbing mythopoeic value. While I by no means intend to underplay these essential aspects of Anaya's work, in the present paper I will further the argument previously put forth in this journal and focus on the writer's welding of various cultural heritages into one composite--one that makes use of different aesthetic languages, as in his recent Seraphina's Stories, which superimposes The Thousand and One Nights model onto colonial Santa Fe, grafting local onto universal themes and creating a new, complex world of the imagination. (1) To this end, I will discuss three stories--"Absalom," "In Search of Epifano," and "Children of the Desert"--concentrating on Anaya's manipulation of literary conventions and his subtle transformation of some of their established semantic functions.

These three short stories share a number of common traits. They all take place in the desert. In all three, the function of nature is consistently atypical vis-a-vis certain literary and ideological conventions. Two have a woman as the main actor, while in the third, although the protagonist is a man, a woman is once again the positive pole in the gender opposition. Thematically, all three tales develop from or around an unfortunate love story. Moreover, the endings of "Absalom" and of "Children of the Desert" are almost mirror images: in each, the couple quarrels, after which the man in the first story drives recklessly away, has an accident, and dies, while the man in the second story drives recklessly back toward the woman, has an accident, and dies. The old woman who is the protagonist of "In Search of Epifano" also drives away into the desert and dies, although not as a consequence of an accident. All these correspondences, as well as several others, suggest that these stories may have been conceived as a triptych--a hypothesis that the rather close dates of publication (1985, 1987, and 1990) perhaps corroborates.

Whether or not this hypothesis is correct, the three stories, independently of each other and with no loss of the individual sense each produces, display a singular consistency of means, all pointing to a remarkable consistency in the organization of meaning. In each component of this admittedly limited medioscopic sample of texts, meaning is not dependent on their aggregation. Once identified, however, this overall consistency allows us to delve deeper into the workings of each text, thus revealing further levels of sense in Anaya's only apparently linear stories.

"Absalom," published in 1985, concerns an unfulfilled woman who, after her divorce, moves from New York to the desert south of Be'er Sheva. While visiting the tomb of Absalom, she meets a North African whom she names Absalom. The two become intimate. The woman, whom the narrator names Tamar, is initially fulfilled by her new lover. Then, after a quarrel caused by basic differences over their respective gender roles, the man leaves in anger and dies in his car. Every day, on her way to work, the woman "sees the mangled wreck" left to rust in the desert." (2)

Several structural elements are compounded in this story: namely, a series of references to the Second Book of Samuel, the paradigmatic oppositions of culture versus nature and man versus woman, and the historical opposition of Arabs versus Jews. The title clearly refers to the Bible, but only midway through the narrative do we find the first passage relating to Samuel. This is a reference to the tomb of Absalom in the Valley of Qidron, where the two lovers meet; the woman's naming the man "Absalom" is consequential to the circumstances of their encounter. Then comes the naming of the woman: "we might as well say her name is Tamar, a seductive, intriguing biblical name" (161). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Desert and the Seed: Three Stories by Rudolfo Anaya
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.