Dr. Fidel Fajardo-Acosta's

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Language & Form

Short story. Spanish original. Realism, Naturalism, Feminism, also aspects of Modernism. Recommended English translation by Angel Flores


In a conversation at a spa, a woman, who appears to be in bad health, confides in the narrator, telling her a story about her ordeal while married to a man named Reinaldo. Irrationally jealous of his young wife, Reinaldo mistreats her and eventually warns her that he has a revolver and plans to shoot her in the head if she does anything to offend him. Terrorized by the situation but doing nothing about it, the woman lives in constant fear for four years. Reinaldo dies in a horseback riding accident and his wife then admits that she loved him in spite of everything. She further discovers that the gun was never loaded and that Reinaldo never bought any ammunition. The story ends with the woman saying, "an unloaded revolver shot me, not in the head, but in the center of my heart ..."

Study Questions

What may be the significance or function of the narrative situation where the woman protagonist tells her story to an older woman who is the narrator? How are these figures, protagonist and narrator, related to Emilia Pardo Bazán, the author of the story? What may Pardo Bazán be trying to emphasize or represent by means of that narrative situation?

What may be the meaning of the illness of the protagonist? Why is she said to be "maimed by suffering" and "withered away"? Why is it suggested that "there was something more than the physical in her ruin"? What reduced her to her present condition? Why is it suggested that there is a "glitter of madness" in her eyes?

What issues are brought up by the privileged social position of the couple in the story? How about their age differences? What puts an end to the happiness of their first year of marriage? What causes Reinaldo's jealousy? How is it significant that she gives him no reason to be jealous? What is the source of his irrational behavior? What cultural, social, psychological, or gender issues are invoked by the situation in the story?

What is the significance of the gun? What does it represent? Why is it that the wife does nothing to remedy the situation? What does her passivity suggest? What issues is Pardo Bazán addressing? Why is it important that the gun was unloaded? That bullets were never purchased? What does that suggest? Is it important that the husband threatens to shoot her in the head? How is the actual gun to be distinguished from the gun in her imagination? What is the meaning and power of the non-existent bullets? What does that suggest regarding how oppressive power works? Where does it reside and operate? How is subordination maintained and perpetuated for groups like women, servants, slaves, the working classes?

Is it significant that the husband dies of "some internal injury"? How about the idea of his being "thrown by a horse"? Is there any symbolism in those details?

Why does the woman say she loved her husband, and "mourned him quite sincerely," in spite of how he treated her? How does that compare to the case of women in domestic violence situations who refuse to press charges because they believe their abusive husbands/boyfriends "love" them? What do such absurdities reveal? What is it that both victims and oppressors appear to "love"? What do they find so attractive that they can't let go off it? is this a case of the slave who comes to love the chains that hold him/her prisoner? What values have they internalized? How do those values implement the suffering, slavery, and "death" of those who hang on to them? How does that help explain the ongoing realities of oppression, violence and unjust subordination in modern societies?

Why is the woman portrayed as being alive and yet dead? What is suggested by her perception that "an unloaded revolver shot me, not in the head , but in the center of my heart"? What aspect of her is dead? Who or what is the executioner? Why is she unable to recover from the trauma of her experiences? Is she, in a way, still in mourning? Why can't she live a healthy, fulfilling life without her oppressor and what he represents? How may that situation be related to the historical experience and the social struggles in Spain and other European nations during the 19th century?



to come


Last updated: 09/20/2004


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