Hello my name is Mariana Tonche. I am a current Junior here at Austin College. I’m originally from Houston, Texas. I’m studying Spanish, Sociology and Education.
Crazy hormonal women. Hysteria—believed to be caused by disturbances of the uterus. Why is it that women are always portrayed as crazy? Do these women have power? Well, as we’ve seen in THOTS, Volver and now Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown we can see they definitely have control. These women’s lives may be all out of whack but they each find a coping mechanism that helps them move on.
In THOTS, the women are more independent as opposed to in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Clara declares her independence from Esteban from the very beginning. She does not allow him to mistreat her in the sense that she doesn’t care enough to let it affect her. Pepa on the other hand is in love with Ivan a philandering older man who has many women and shows little interest in her needs. In the end Pepa too declares her independence from this man and decides to rain her child as her own and not let him be involved since he didn’t care enough to hear her out.
Both of these works include a group of strong female protagonist. The women in both of these plot lines are chaotic and unruly. They have a mind of their own and want things their way. These are strong willed women even with their out of the ordinary eccentric behavior. They are the perfect example that not everyone has to fill the same mold because they come in many forms.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous breakdown is comedic as opposed to THOTS which has a serious tone to it. This contrast between this film and the novel shows the many turns that can be taken to reach a common point. Although the film is comic it gets some of the same points across which is hard because these are serious problems being laughed at. There has to be the right balance of comedy and seriousness to get the message across. This film does a great job in criticizing philandering men and emphasizing the strength of these quirky off balance women.
Fun Fact: I am a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown about 99.99% of the time.
“Filmsgraded.com: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988).” Filmsgraded.com: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016. <http://filmsgraded.com/reviews/older/womver.htm>.
Río, Carlos Del. “Mujeres Al Borde De Un Ataque De Nervios .” Carlos Del Río. Críticas De Películas Y Novelas. Escribir Ficción. N.p., 1 Aug. 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2016. <http://www.elrincondecarlosdelrio.com/2012/08/mujeres-al-borde-de-un-ataque-de-nervios.html>.
The female characters in both The House of the Spirits and Volver consist of strong and extraordinary women. They are independent and don’t heavily rely on a male’s opinion. These characters combat the idea that women are supposed to be submissive because they are the opposite. Clara and Raimunda fight for the well-being of their children under any circumstance. The women in these works are not dependent on men and have the ability to make their own decisions. The female characters are the center of both of these two works they are the focus of the stories. The men are secondary characters and “are often predators” (Bina007).
In The House of the Spirits Clara heavily relies on her supernatural powers to prepare herself for the problems that are to come. She doesn’t let her premonitions frighten her as she grows older she learns how to accept it and use it as a coping mechanism. The contrast and similarities between Clara an Raimunda are uncanny. Raimunda is this beautiful young mother who spends her time working many part-time jobs in order to provide for her family. She has a 14-year-old daughter and her husband spends his time lounging around drinking. When her husband attempts to rape her daughter (Paula) and her daughter kills him she takes matter into her own hands. She settles the issue and tells her daughter not to worry about it. This is similar to when Esteban beats both Clara and Blanca so Clara leaves Trés Marias with her daughter. She does everything in her power to alienate him and exclude him from the family because once he crossed that line he lost her forever. In a sense this was worse than death for Esteban because he spent the rest of his life craving human affection. These two women like their mothers Nívea and Irene do what they believe is right for their families.
The husbands in both of these works are viewed as antagonistic characters. Pedro and Esteban are both womanizing close minded men. Pedro attempts to rape his stepdaughter whom he has raised since she was a baby. He is lazy and spends his time laying around on the couch drinking beer not worrying about finding a job and providing for his family. Esteban on the other hand is an ill-tempered man whose mood is unbearable all together. During his life time he rapes many women and uses them for sex. He then throws them away as if they were a simple object and not human beings. Neither of their demises (both literal and metaphorical) are mourned. After committing the acts that ultimately leave them without relation with their families they lose their sense of home. For Pedro he literally loses his life while Esteban is forced to live a life isolated from his children. The women can do without these men in their lives and are seen to succeed in life well, after ridding themselves of them.
Almodovar’s many films consist of strong eccentric women and their connections with one another. This aspect is also present in Allende’s novel because all of the women are interconnected even their names are different variations of the same word. The relationships that these women have with one another add to their independence because together they can succeed and are able to better their lives. They inspire each other to continue on through the hardships. They are there for one another when tough times arise and build one another up instead of tearing each other down. The men in either of these works tend to do the opposite and tear their companions apart rather than building them up. Both Allende and Almodovar develop strong interconnected and self-aware women who are able to fight their own battles to counter the idea that women are submissive beings. They create these multi-faceted female characters who fight for their lives and making the best of their situations.
Bina007. “VOLVER – the Genius of Almodovar.” Bina007 Movie Reviews:. Bina007, 09 Sept. 2016. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://www.bina007.com/2006/08/volver-genius-of-almodovar.html>.
Johans, Jen. “Film Intuition: Review Database.” : Volver. Film Intuition, 05 Apr. 2007. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://reviews.filmintuition.com/2007/04/volver.html>.
The House of the Spirits is a novel filled with fantastic elements to criticize social and political issues during that time. Isabel Allende uses this novel as her outlet to express her frustrations with society. There is a significant divide between males and females in this novel along with other themes. Women are supposed to be submissive and obedient, but the women in this novel are actually quite the opposite. They are strong, but also gentle at the same time.
Clara along with the women in her family have an open mind and greater understanding of social issues. Simply helping the poor is not enough they need more than just that. They need justice this is something Esteban does not agree with. He believes in so called equality but does nothing to offer it to his workers. He cheats on Clara with Transito Soto, but if Clara were to find out she would probably be more upset about the fact that he is using women instead of the infidelity. Blanca who is Clara’s daughter is flourishing into a young woman and although in appearance she favors the Trueba her mindset is like her mother’s.
Blanca and Pedro have an interesting relationship. They are in the awkward in-between age of childhood and adolescence. She is still very much like a child in many ways because she doesn’t comprehend the reality of her and Pedro Tercera’s situation. She doesn’t see that they can never be together because of their social status positions. She’s naive in the sense that she isn’t aware of the divide between her and Pedro, but he is. He knows that they will never marry like she says they will because they aren’t in the same class. Esteban can not stand Pedro Tercera because of his “communist” beliefs. He keeps a close eye on him so he will stop putting these foolish ideas in the workers heads.
This novel brings to light these societal issues in a manner that both draws in the reader and creates relatable characters. The added spiritual powers allow these women to have some control in their lives. They use these abilities in their favor to prepare themselves for what awaits them. Women in this time are being oppressed and belittled this gives them the upper hand in a way. Esteban sees it as nonsense and doesn’t believe in it. Esteban especially is a temperamental person who can easily be angered. Clara and him have a unique contrast because of the nature of their characters. Clara is nonchalant and doesn’t feed into his tantrums which deescalates the situations. He is this alpha male who has fallen at the feet of this woman who at times keeps him at bay except when she contradicts his beliefs. Even then he doesn’t treat her as he treats everyone else she has a hold over him. All of these characteristics complement and criticize the injustices that were taking place not only just in the novel, but also in the author’s life.
Director Guillermo del Toro presents several issues not only politically wrong with society, but simply faults in humanity. Ofelia let’s her curiosity get the best of her and follows her fairytale path that opens many troubling challenges that affect her life in forms she never thought possible. She longs to be safe and happy this is something she does not have at the side of the Captain and her mother. The contrast between the older women and Ofelia’s young soul is something interesting because it allows the viewer to see both ends of the spectrum. Carmen and Mercedes have suffered plenty in their lifetime and have lost hope in the kindness in the world. They see everything for what it is. Ofelia on the other hand is curious and believes in the fantastic. The Faun opens Ofelia’s eyes to the magic in the Labyrinth and how she can obtain what she’s always wanted.
The end is quite ambiguous because although her physical body has died her spirit/soul has accomplished what she’s been longing for all her life. She has been reunited with her family in a much less cruel world where she will finally be happy and safe. The director leaves it open to interpretation perhaps because this is a situation where there isn’t any true closure.