Virginity In Chronicle Of A Death by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Length: 1267 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)
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Latin American society has placed a very high value on women being virgins when they marry. This value is one of the primary themes in Chronicle of a Death foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In contrast, virginity does not appear to hold significance in Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. However this is only on the surface but as one delves into the deeper meanings of each book it almost seems as if the authors view this social doctrine as childish. Throughout the stories contained within both books, a mockery is made out of the idea that celibacy is for those not yet married.
The plot of Chronicle of a Death Foretold is totally based on the understanding that maintaining a woman’s virginity is important enough to kill for and conversely that anyone violating this social moray was risking death. Virginity is viewed as synonymous with honor. This aspect is what Garcia Marquez challenges with the use of irony. Throughout the book, he inserts aspects that speak directly to the importance of this theme and reinforces this concept by use of several devices, of which irony is the most prominent.
“No one would have thought, nor did anyone say, that Angela Vicario wasn’t a virgin. She hadn’t known any previous fiancé and she’d grown up along with her sisters under the rigor of a mother of iron. Even when it was less than two months before she would be married, Pura Vicario wouldn’t let her go out alone with Bayardo San Roman to see the house where they were going to live, but she and the blind father accompanied her to watch over her honor.”
The idea of protecting her virginity is so important as to have a blind father as a chaperone. This is absurd, to make a blind man to “watch” over Angela Vicario, and is how Gabriel Garcia Marquez ridicules the preconception of pre-marital virginity.
The societal value placed on these preconception is also demonstrated in small ways like the name of the mother, “Pura.” Pura in spanish means pure; virginity and pure in this society were one and the same. Pura’s sole purpose throughout the book is to keep Angela’s virginity safe from those who would puncture it, and to punish Angela for making the mistake of losing her virginity before marriage.
The ironic aspect of the book is that while women accepted and perpetuated this rule of society, they seem to almost, in a matter of fact manner, accept that many wouldn’t be “pure.” This is shown when they discuss how to disguise the lack of virginity.
Another irony is how prostitution is handled in the novel. It is accepted as a normal and is not looked upon with great disdain. However, it presents the concept and communicates the narrow and fatalistic view that young women can either be virgins or whores. The issue of Marquez’s, appears to be not that this veiw is limiting the future, but that society allows to have this veiw dictate ones' life.
This value of virginity is intertwined in the religion which in Chronicle is portrayed as a seam in the fabric holding society together. The story revolves around the event of a visiting bishop. Religion is viewed as permeating every aspect of the society. It is essential to what they are all about as anything else they do. Marquez assumes we understand this and find it ludicrous. Metaphorically, religion and the concept of virginity are mocked when the bullet ricochets and ends up hitting a statue of the Virgin Mary, the ultimate symbol of virginity and purity in latin american culture. It seems to say that it is religion and symbols like the “Virgin” Mary, that provide the conflict that lead men to act fatalistically, without choice.
The value of virginity in Like Water for Chocolate like in Chronicle Of A Death Foretold, part of society. This is clearly stated by Chencha after the incident of her rape when she states, “You all know how men are, they wont eat off a plate that isn’t clean.” After she was defiled and treated so horribly, in her mind, she could not envision marriage in her future. She saw heself as being doomed to live the rest of her life lonely, like Tita. It is therefore a matter of surprise when she returns with her new husband. The comment is made by the narrator:
“Chencha’s folks had been flatly opposed to their romance, and he never would have known where to find her if it hadn’t been for Chencha’s going back to the village and his coming to see her. It didn’t matter to him that Chencha wasn’t a virgin, he married her right away.”
Yes, it is a societal expectation that a woman must be celibate till the wedding night, but here it did not matter to the new husband. This represents Esquivel’s beleif that true love overcomes any obstacle including lack of virginity.
It is normal and natural how Laura Esquivel prefers to address the concept of virginity versus what maybe the mockery used by Garcia Marquez. It is fact that women should be virgins before they marry, but if they are not, life goes on, and women and men realize that it is not the end of world or life if a girls virginity is absent. This view is strongly upheld when Gertrudis is taken away and loses her virginity in that brief burst of passion with the captain. She then travels to a brothel whereas a prostitute she is slowly bleeding off all the passion that has built up inside herself that she is unable to contain. It is not talked of that she has ruined her chance of marriage, nor is it mentioned that she has become a prostitute. It is implied by the author that Gertrudis will live a normal happy life free despite her lust for so many men outside the bonds of marriage.
An extremely important aspect of this book is the complete lack of religion throughout the novel. Esquivel deliberately ignores one of the most important aspects of the Mexican culture and latin american culture as a whole, religion. Almost all, if not all, societal constraints and laws are based upon the prominent religions of the area. The area where the story is set is ninety-six percent catholic currently and was more prominently catolic in the time period of the story. Catholicism contains within its values the idea that a girl must remain a virgin until marriage. When Esquivel ignores religion as a whole, she also implies that while some of the values upheld by the church are worthwhile many are absurd in practical life However no matter what the state of a maiden’s womanhood is it does not really matter to everyday living.
Of today’s standards, in our highly industrialized countries, the common acceptance that a woman would stay celibate till marriage is viewed as absurd and almost laughable to many people. Esquivel’s story seems to almost imply that this rule is a function of trying to keep children from doing stupid things. It also conveys that it shouldn’t matter if there is true love among those involved. To become married in is a condition of love, and love should not be based on the condition of the hymen. It is because of this idea, that Garcia Marquez approach to the consequences of lacking virginity while realistic in certain societies, seems to be satirical and ironic in ours.