“It’s a sin to take the food out of our mouths to give it to a rooster” (Garcia Marquez 31). This essay portrays the different types of symbolism throughout the novels Kiss of the Spiderwoman by Manuel Puig and No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The fighting cock is the dominant symbol in the former, representing both positive and negative matters; such is the case of hope in bringing some improvement to the Colonel’s living conditions while for his wife, being a reminder of their son’s death along with the repression they live in due to political corruption.
In the novel Kiss of the Spider Woman, symbols such as the films, the food and most importantly, the Spider Woman, represent the characters’ peculiar relationship transitioning from a neutral one to a sexual and affectionate one. Both these novels are linked by the political corruption in their environment while the emotional atmosphere revealed by the symbols make them complementary to each other. In No One Writes to the Colonel, the linking of symbols and images represent the inner tensions of the characters throughout the novel.
The main symbol, the fighting cock, is an interesting one in its ability to depict contrasting sentiments as one being. The first one is the hope the Colonel attains from it because of the value it possesses for the town. If the cock wins in the cock fights, the poverty they find themselves struggling with would have a chance to improve. This gives the cock a special treatment where ironically, it will be put first than them.
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“When the corn is gone we’ll have to feed him on our own livers. (Garcia Marquez 11) Evidently, the Colonel and his wife are eating insufficiently, unable to afford more corn for the cock, let alone food for themselves. The Colonel however maintains a positive attitude towards the cock, faithful that it will in the end lead to helping their harsh conditions. Not only for him but for the people of the town too, the rooster will come to hold a great value representing collective hope for the town as a whole.
We can see this when the Colonel talks to a group of young men who were his son Agustin’s friends and after his death, always helped maintain the cock healthy not only with hope, but with the belief that it will win all of the bets and as a result, win a lot of money for them. The Colonel asks about how much he owes them for repairing his clock and they assure him the cock will reward it. “Don’t worry about it, Colonel. In January, the rooster will pay for it” (Garcia Marquez 34). It seems that there is an assurance of what the symbol of the rooster signifies and is valued for in the town.
This is where the main conflict comes in between him and his wife, in which the cock’s symbolism of hope will turn into one of hatred and resentment. “It’s because the situation we’re in,” she said. “It’s a sin to take the food out of our mouths to give it to a rooster” (Garcia Marquez 31). For her, the rooster will represent something quite the contrary; where rather than it symbolizing hope for an improvement to their living conditions, it will symbolize the misery they are in, especially by being the source of their son’s death.
She cannot relate with neither her husband’s wish to maintain Agustin’s aspirations for the cock alive nor the town’s value and belief for it as a symbol of opposition continuing even after the death of its owner. The cock, as a legacy of Agustin, is a symbol of collective hope for the town symbolizing resistance for opposition to authority. He and his rooster were the part of the family who possessed the highest appreciation and value from the people of the town.
When he is killed, the survival of the cock is what gives his parents any respect from the people. Later on, the Colonel considers selling it since his wife constantly puts pressure on him to do so because she believes that it is only putting their own lives at risk. “Get rid of that rooster right now” (Garcia Marquez 30). However, he finally realizes as he sees and lives through the excitement of a cock fight that the cock is more meaningful than just the money it can bring.
He thinks that by selling the cock, it would not only mean a glimpse of help to their situation but also a betrayal to the people of the town, “They said the rooster didn’t belong to us but to the whole town” (Garcia Marquez 56); and the problem of hunger they find themselves struggling with would still not be solved. The political standpoint in which this symbol stands is conflictive no matter what decision he makes.
There is always a constant shift in which the symbolism of the cock varies from a positive tone of hope and value to a more negative one of misery and death. The rooster in itself is not suggested just as a representation of the repression the couple lived in but is truly signified as Agustin, the son who was killed as a form of punishment for selling clandestine information that the political figures of authority did not want for the public, in other words, not allowing freedom of expression.
For Kiss of the Spider Woman, the symbols are portrayed by a more consistent representation of love and care between Molina and Valentino, a peculiar relationship where a homosexual man, Molina, will trap the heterosexual man, Valentino, into a “trap of webs” through seduction and a much needed care for him in times of sickness. First of all, the symbol of the films that Molina shares with him as a way of entertainment in the jail cell have stories that represent how he is feeling along with his fantasies about love.
An essential film Molina told Valentino about was the last one he told before he was held free from jail, the story of a romantic tragedy. “And then suddenly you see a giant giant close-up of just her face, with her eyes flooded with tears, but with a smile on her lips… And well… that’s all… folks… -…” (Puig 259) The telling of this film represented the setting of a melancholic atmosphere since after growing such a strong bond, it was now time for them to part. What these films as symbols also emphasize is the entirely different points of views that these two men attain. - It’s a question of learning to accept things as they come, and to appreciate the good that happens to you, even if it doesn’t last. Because nothing is forever. –Yes, it’s easy to say. But feeling it is something else. ” (Puig 259) Molina sees himself as a female figure rather than a male one with the fantasy of finding love with a wonderful man, with this; he is more led by his emotions rather than reason. Valentin, on the other hand, thinks in the opposite way being led more by reason.
He rejects Molina’s idea of a forever lasting love and sees personal relationships as secondary to the cause of justice. These films are constantly triggering their discussions about their opposite points of views. Valentin criticizes Molina for his desire to escape into a world of fantasy but ironically, he denies that his own expectancy for a revolution is also virtually a fantasy. We can then call upon the symbols of food in the novel representing the love, care and affection that in the end Molina has won from Valentin, a man who tends to avoid this sort of attachment with someone else.
When Valentin is sick from food poisoning in the cell, Molina finds a way to treat him with delicious food that makes him feel much better after being sick from poisonous food from the jail. As their time to depart arrives, Valentin makes reference to some of the food as his way of telling him he loves him and will actually miss him, “Every time I see a piece of glazed fruit, I’m going to remember you” (Par. 5, Pg. 259). The glazed fruit will be a symbol of caring and nurturing that Molina gave to Valentin. He also mentions the chicken spit, one of the other foods he brought him that will remind him of Molina.
And every time I see a chicken on a spit, turning in a deli oven” (Puig Pg. 260). The symbol of the chicken spit turning in an oven will represent two vital things: one being the foreshadowing of Valentino and the burns he will suffer later as punishment from the authority for not giving out information they asked of him and the other is how along with this physical pain, he will also live with the pain of knowing that Molina died not long before he got parole because he got involved in Valentino’s political affairs as a favor to him.
And finally most importantly, we see the symbol of the spider woman representing Molina’s character, the consuming female who relishes her predator after a sexual encounter yet also the mother who nurtures. “- You, you’re the spider woman, that traps men in her web. ” (Par. 5, Pg. 260). Molina is symbolized as the spider woman since in his relationship with Valentin; he was not a man but a feminine figure who won Valentin’s trust and affection through his profound care of him.
In conclusion, the role of symbolism in these two pieces of literature will play a significant role in representing important aspects of the themes, the atmosphere, the social relationships, the emotions, etc. In No One Writes to the Colonel, we see that the cock will be a symbol of two main different things: the optimism in the hope for the town and the Colonel and a more negative note for the Colonel’s wife who sees it as the repression and death of their son.
In Kiss of the Spider Woman, the symbols of the film stories, the food and the spider woman will also reveal how the relationship between Molina and Valentin is grandly valued despite their sexuality differences. For both of these novels, we are able to see the symbols all of hope, love, affection and misery; all vital in expressing what is needed and putting together two classical pieces of literature.
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