The GODDESS, the MATERNAL WHORE and the VINDICTIVE VIRGIN: Powerful Women in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Ulysses

June 30, 2019 by Essay Writer

Families in Ulysses and One Hundred Years of Solitude are often breeding grounds for distortion and curses, not of the stability and progress expected of most kin relations. Genealogies are either perverted or unsuccessful: The Buendía line, with its unrelenting spawning of repetitive names and its replicating, incestuous procreative urges, creates freaks like the final pig-tailed infant, doomed clones like the 17 Aurelianos and insanity in José Arcadio Buendía and Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Even the opposite situation in Ulysses, with the stunted pseudo- family left by May Dedalus’ death and Bloom’s futile fatherly fantasies, suggest that relationships lead to regression and failure. Yet everyone is drawn inexorably back to this ‘original source’, this maelstrom of disruption. The family fold is so insular, inescapable – magical intervention lures Aureliano Segundo back to his home after he miraculously survives the plantation massacre, Bloom returns to Molly and their unhappy bed after an epic jaunt around Dublin – that it is a wonder how these families persevered for as long as they did.It is clear, at least, that fatherly guidance and paternal strength is not the sustaining force here. As Patricia Tobin describes the Buendías, “where…fatherhood is never more than a biological accident, in such a family one can hardly expect the triumph of the paternal promise that the present progeny will be identified as the continuation of past generations … Paternity confers neither legitimacy nor legacy upon the Buendías” (53). In fact, it is the women, an unconventional group of Atlases indeed, who simultaneously support yet continue to ruin the crumbling familial bedrock of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Ulysses. Neither the chaste innocents nor dutiful mothers of traditional epics, these women are the true origin and continuation of power – the maternal whores, the eternal (both living and dead) goddesses and the vindictive virgins. Feminine presence and will dominates these novels, driven by women’s unusual allure and control. Úrsula, along with a coterie of distinctive females, rules Macondo with an iron matriarchal fist. Her apparently supernatural powers are reminiscent of the constant ghostly whisper of May Dedalus and bewitching attractiveness of prostitutes in Ulysses. However, before exploring these potent characters individually, it is crucial to examine them in comparison with their curiously incapacitated male counterparts, including the complacently cuckolded Bloom and the lovelorn, shuttered Aureliano Buendía. Carol Siegel proposes that Bloom is convinced of his “inability to ‘do a man’s job'”, especially considering his decade-long sexual dry spell with Molly (181). When Bloom hallucinates in “Circe”, he imagines himself anointed as the new “womanly man”, about to give birth, and, as Brenda Oded points out, “Bloom continues playing the role of motherly father in the closing sections of the novel” (Joyce 403, Oded 44). The recurring infantile, feminized ‘weak man’ with vagina envy only lends greater power to the women, who must overcompensate and diversify to make up for male inadequacy. For example, Bella Cohen retains her femininity while dominating Bloom, making her a doubly intimidating hybrid of hyper-gendered strength. Siegel furthers: “Bello, the “suckeress” threatens Bloom with a phallic but femininely high heels, “glistening in their proud erectness” … (Joyce 433). She refers to herself as a lady and tells Bloom to call her “mistress” although the stage directions assign Bella the male pronouns (Joyce 436) … Bello taunts Bloom for urinating sitting down and commands him to “Do it standing, sir!” (Joyce 438) … Bloom’s relationship to Bella is as changeable as their respective genders” (183).Bella/Bello’s ability to transcend gender boundaries, as well as evidence of Ursula’s and Pilar’s existence outside of time and May Dedalus’ return from the dead suggest a paranormal power, as if women in these novels are invincible goddesses. In almost every way, these women exhibit traits that show them to be superior to men. Molly’s sexual appetite far exceeds Bloom’s (and he is literally besieged by women in “Circe”, a chapter named after a legendary, mind-controlling witch), and even tiny, newt-like Rebeca can match José Arcadio’s infamously lusty habits. Amaranta is just as ruthless as manly Arcadio (who, incidentally, is deposed by Úrsula, who becomes a despot “who ruled the town” (116)) and Meme easily tops her father’s gluttonous exploits. These women reach the mythical excesses of classical gods while exerting total control over surrounding men. In much the same way that Bella lorded over Bloom, Ursula “had found the route that her husband had been unable to discover” and Amaranta Úrsula re-entered Macondo “leading her husband by a silk rope tied around his neck” (40, 405). Returning to Bella, Jonathan Quick claims her power to be the “greatest of all. She is a potent figure of female ascendancy, breaking out of Carmen’s role as victimized free spirit and overwhelming men out of her deep knowledge of her sexual vulnerability” (236).But even without the contrast to men, the women of these novels are still idol-like in their omnipotence and mystery. From Stephen’s musings on a midwife and how “one of her sisterhood lugged me squealing into life. Creation from nothing … this is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods?” to the association of Miss Kennedy and Miss Douce with the legendary Sirens to Úrsula looking like “a newborn old woman” at her death, women are portrayed as the harbingers of life and destruction, who can even decide when they die (Joyce 32, Marquez 368). They are the end-all and be-all of the universe, directed with a wave of Ursula’s “archangelic arm” or her presence “in so many places at the same time” or even her improved clairvoyance (359, 266). According to Arnold M. Penuel, “…Úrsula, who loses her sight in her final years, becomes something of a seer, commenting on the lives of the other characters as if she were a composite Greek chorus” (552). However, these marvelous or magical powers are limited, almost ironically so. Pilar lives to age 145, not forever. The bevy of prostitutes can insinuate themselves in Bloom’s dreams, but he easily avoids them when they pass on the street. Úrsula can predict the future, but cannot prevent her family’s demise. It’s as if women are demigoddesses – nearly almighty but equipped with an escape clause. These defects are kinks in these women’s plans to resurrect their families using superhuman methods.Regardless, if the women of these novels have divine origins or skills, then their temple is the brothel. All roads lead to the whorehouse in both Ulysses and One Hundred Years of Solitude because prostitutes are necessary to hereditary survival. The bastardizing of genealogy, normally a sign of sexual wantonness and pleasure being prioritized over familial yield, is here represented as an injection of innovation in an increasingly stagnant and doomed lineage. But promiscuity and productivity are an uncomfortable pair, as evidenced in Molly’s mother Lunita Laredo, who is a vessel for “painfully contradictory images that emerge with the ‘idea’ of her mother, both a common whore and a sexual adventuress, an ethnic exotic and a racial outcast, a woman whose body alternately evokes shame and pride in her daughter” (Quick 226).The enormous role of the prostitute in the generative faculties of the families is also meant partly as a parody of the paternal epics of the Gilgamesh or Beowulf variety and partly as a celebration of the sexually liberated pagan mother figure. Siegel mentions a passage in which, “in his drunken babble of ‘Circe or, what am I saying, Ceres’ altar’, Stephen confuses, as Bloom does, the ‘laughing witch’ with the fertile mother” (183). Rather than a blood network extrapolating from a heroic male epicenter, these novels flout epic tradition by giving ultimate power to prostitutes, who consider men to be transitory and peripheral. Throughout One Hundred Years of Solitude, the fate of the Buendías hinges on prostitute and fortune-teller Pilar Tenera’s ability to give birth and the unmarried Petra Cotes’ fruitful influence on livestock. In similar language, immediately following insinuations of Molly’s 25-plus whorish affairs, she is described as Gea-Tellus, or Earth Mother, “big with seed” (592, 606). Even the actual prostitutes “a necessary evil”, are invested with maternal tendencies and the promise of maternal abilities. Even “Zoe, urging Bloom to follow her up the stairs, is both whore and mother with “the hand that rocks the cradle” and at a touch reduces Bloom to his baby-self (Joyce 408)” (Siegel, 182). In other cases, however, rather than the prostitute taking on maternal characteristics, mothers are instead re-identified as licentious whores. May Dedalus is the most visible example according to Oded, who claims that May “is cast in two roles, that of the ghost of the murdered parent and that of the guilty queen” (43). She is both Gertrude and Ann Hathaway, filled with doubly-defined “amor matris” for Stephen, someone who “had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart” (23). Her character reverses the role of the prostitute in much the same way that Pilar Tenera does: They spark incestuous lust while leeching thoughts and passion from those who guiltily desire them, in order to become unbreakable links in the evolutionary, genealogical chain. While Arcadio is literally sexually attracted to his mother Pilar, Stephen is intensely affected by his mother May’s spirit. Oded argues that “though she is physically absent, the ghostwoman with ashes on her breath haunts Stephen and does not let him create … The surrogate mothers – Ellen Bloom, May Dedalus, Molly Bloom, Old Gummy Granny and Mina Purefoy – make up a maternal hell that must be conquered” (43). Ultimately, prostitutes help save and expand families in these novels, but at what costs? Their presence, however powerful, is unhealthy because it dilutes the purity of the genetic pool and encourages the kind of sexual deviancy that Úrsula tried to avoid with her futile chastity garment. With whores who are inevitably mothers and vice versa, deified women who have the prophecy but not the will to prevent genealogical curses and virgins who are either so barren or so vituperative that they cannot be expected to produce, it’s as if the maternal prostitute serves the pointless function of prolonging and perverting lineages that are already fated to die out. The prevalence of morbidly dangerous virgins in these novels questions the extent to which poisonous sexuality can determine a woman’s power. Joyce and Márquez’s examples are nothing like Spenser’s religiously chaste Faerie Queen or the sweetly innocent Eve. Without requiring technical virginity, these women are the black widows of the families, filled with malicious antipathy toward love, sex and reproduction. Men die to obtain Remedios the Beauty while Amaranta prefers to weave her own funeral shroud rather than accept suitors. In a way, this ability to enforce abstinence, with Amaranta and Remedios the Beauty remaining pure while none of the men can resist sex, adds to women’s power. For example, “Remedios, la bella’s virginity was sterile and perhaps even more destructive than Amaranta’s … the productive human relationships of the two “bad women”, Pilar Tenera and Petra Cotes, also lend credence to the validity of the thesis of this study that a major, if not principal, thrust of Garcia Márquez’s portrayal of Amaranta is the demythologization of virginity” (Penuel, 558-9). Virginity is not a perfect state to aspire to; rather, it reeks of death and inhibited growth. Childlike Remedios dies painfully of a laudanum dose while prudish Fernanda del Carpio constructs funeral wreaths and sabotages the consummation of her marriage. In the “Nausicaa” episode, lame-footed Gerty MacDowell is plagued by a “strained look on her face! A gnawing sorrow is there all the time” because she has been promised into a loveless marriage (288). These virgins are united by similar auras of tragic abnormality, of desiccated hope rather than blooming potential.Siegel, when describing Bloom’s mental adventures in “Circe”, demonstrates the womanly reinvention at work in these two novels as Bloom’s consciousness forms “an even more elaborate knot as his hallucination ties together mismatched twins, the Virgin mother, diseased whore, and happy male-violated male in one identity…” (184). Each of these feminine archetypes – the all-seeing but ineffectual goddess, the lewd mother and the vicious virgin – helps in reconfiguring preconceptions of gender and, consequently, of family. Using these experimental figures, Márquez and Joyce attempt to preserve flawed lineages by shifting the balance of power to women and then opening up their confined roles to allow more movement and unexpectedness. While they help facilitate the epic journeys of the obvious male protagonists, the Blooms and the Arcadios, by ensuring their reincarnation despite their troubled families, these unusual women are also completing epic journeys of their own. By being equally responsible as men for the preservation and destruction of genealogy, they reserve a significant position for themselves and all other women in future epics.WORKS CITEDOded, Brenda. “The Maternal Ghost in Joyce.” Modern Language Studies, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Autumn 1985). Pp. 40-47.Penuel, Arnold M. “Death and the Maiden: Demythologization of Virginity in García Marquez’s Cien anos de soledad.” Hispania, Vol. 66, No. 4 (Dec. 1983). Pp. 552-560.Quick, Jonathan. “Molly Bloom’s Mother.” ELH, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Spring 1990). Pp. 223-240.Siegel, Carol. “‘Venus Metempsychosis’ and Venus in Furs: Masochism and Fertility in Ulysses.” Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer 1987). Pp. 179-195.Tobin, Patricia. “Response: García Márquez and the Genealogical Imperative.” Diacritics, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Summer 1974). Pp. 52-55.

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