“Woman Hollering Creek”, a short story, written by Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros, focuses predominantly on the humiliation and suffering Chicano women endure in the patriarchal society. The present paper is intended to analyze the literary work from the feminist perspective, concerned with the interpretation of the works of women writers, representation of women and their experiences in literature, women’s voices in literary works, power relations, and gender roles in the fundamentally androcentric society.
Sandra Cisneros, the Chicano woman, describes the experiences of women from her ethnic group from the insider’s perspective, so the author’s sex and ethnicity determine the fact that the majority of characters including the protagonist are Mexican American females. Seguin, the town where the character lives with her spouse is depicted as a male-dominated society, where females perform predominantly mundane and low-paid work like Trini, who works at the laundry, or stay at home as housekeepers, fully depending on their husbands, like Dolores and Cleofilas.
Most female characters in the literary work, particularly the inhabitants of the town, are depicted in quite a stereotypical way, i.e. they are submissive, tolerant, and believe that a woman becomes “half-human” without a man. For instance, the widows living next to Cleofilas idolize their deceased spouses. This means, most of the female characters are women brought up in the Chicano spirit.
Whereas the majority of the town’s women take the family model for granted, Cleofilas finds it difficult to get accustomed to her new life with the abusive and rude husband. The short story shows two
types of attitudes towards women: the first one is represented through the caring manner in which Cleofilas’s father treated her; the second refers to her spouse’s viewing her as cattle and committing domestic violence against her. Although these attitudes are opposed, both of them imply approaching women as dependant and inferior. After creating a family, Cleofilas becomes a rightless person with countless duties, which she hates in the depths of her soul, but is afraid of realizing or expressing this feeling.
This dysfunctional relationship between man and woman is depicted through the theme of silence; Cleofilas is imprisoned within the world of verbal silence. She should behave silently while her husband and his friends are having fun in the living room, drinking and discussing the meaningless issues the drunkards enjoy, moreover, she should remain silent, as informing anyone on the suffering she endures in her “sweet home” is a shame.
Cleofilas and her peers from the community are also stereotypical in terms of their addiction to telenovelas. All of them spend their spare time consuming the beauty and glamour of top-class families where males are polite and tender and females have an opportunity to live in careless independence, surrounded by admirers and supportive relatives. The main character confesses that she believes that her husband once changes into the affectionate, loving, and respectful knight from the TV screen, so despite all humiliations Cleofilas endures, she nevertheless continues to love her betraying spouse.
The female character who should be seen apart from the other “common women” is Felice, who becomes a symbol of and guide to an independent life for the protagonist. Felice is an embodiment of self-sufficiency, she behaves naturally and seems a sincere and authentic person, as opposed to the town’s women, who need to keep secrets and pretend throughout their life. Felice drives a truck, swears like a man, roars like an animal when feeling happy or excited, and is unwilling to create a family. Felice is a person who helps Cleofilas escape Seguin and serves as the first encouraging female role model in the new or free life of the main character.
The short story is essentially dedicated to the theme of a woman’s transition from weakness, defenselessness, and fragility to determination and a new sense of responsibility. Whereas at the very beginning of her marital life, the protagonist is consumed by her escapism into telenovelas and doesn’t seem to undertake any efforts against the spousal cruelty and impunity, towards the end she seems to consider her responsibility for her unborn child, who also becomes a victim. Her determination and readiness to become a single and unmarried parent demonstrate the acquisition of the breadwinner’s role, normally attributed to males.
Cisneros, S. “Woman Hollering Creek”. In Literature- Reading, Fiction, Poetry and Drama, 6th ed. by R.DiYanni. McGraw-Hill, 2005, pp. 246-253.