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Erasing Male Characters from Álbum de familia by Rosario Castellanos

Carpenter, Victoria ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3880-6555 (2010) Erasing Male Characters from Álbum de familia by Rosario Castellanos. Estudios Interdisciplinarios de America Latina y el Caribe, 21 (2). pp. 61-76.

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Out of a great number of critiques of Rosario Castellanos’ short stories in the collection Álbum de familia, most focus on the woman protagonist of “Lección de cocina”, treating this work from a traditional feminist perspective – as a portrayal of patriarchal oppression of women. However, a close reading of the three stories in Álbum de familia makes one wonder whether the men were solely responsible for the women’s plight. Are the women being victimized, or are they the oppressors? If we consider the relationship between men and women in Castellanos’ works as an example of the Self/Other dichotomy, a generally accepted view would make the woman the man’s Other, thus subjugating the former and giving the latter the power to change the Other. This relationship locks the Self and Other in a rigid standoff, arguably perpetuated by both sides. According to Toril Moi, “[t]he promotion and valorization of Othernewss will never liberate the oppressed. It is, of course, hopelessly idealist to assume that Otherness somehow causes oppression” (Moi 1988: 12). Most analyses of women as Other in Castellanos’ work propagate the traditional hegemonic dichotomy of gender: men-oppressors vs. women-oppressed. It is time to challenge this approach.
This study argues that while the character of the woman undergoes progressive development, the character of the man suffers degeneration under the woman’s direct influence. The analysis of the objectification of men in the three stories focuses on men protagonists losing cognition as they move backwards in the hierarchy of human needs. A particular attention is paid to the breakdown in verbal communication, reversal of sexual roles, and the use of food as a means of subcognitive manipulation. The examination of this process draws upon Rosario Castellanos’ own essays on feminism, theory of human motivation, and a number of studies of discourse ownership and power. The study will argue that in the three stories the man is presented as a textual construct and in the woman’s power to be manipulated to fit the storyline. This approach has been adopted earlier for the study of text ownership in the works of Mexican counterculture. The analysis concluded that the narrator’s control over the storyline and the protagonists allows him/her to re-write one in order to sustain the other. Thus, the narrator can exercise unlimited power over the protagonists, ultimately erasing or completely re-creating them if their present character is in conflict with the storyline preferred by the narrator (Carpenter 2009).

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
P Language and Literature > PC Romance languages
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
School/Department: Academic Development Directorate
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/1423

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