The Role of Women in Pedro Paramo
In a traditional Mexican household, the women tend to personify a maternal character in which they nurture, provide for, and maintain the unity of their family. Throughout the novel Pedro Páramo, the protagonist Juan encounters three significant women who embody motherly roles in his journey through Comala. During Juan’s time in the town, Rulfo introduces Eduviges Dyada, Damiana Cisneros, and Dorotea La Cuarraca in order to guide his transition into the spiritual realm. Additionally, these three women assist Juan with completing his initial goal of learning more about his father, Pedro Páramo, by providing different perspectives of his character. Rulfo specifically implements female voices due to their representation of the three Fates and their cultural depiction as the caretaker of the family.
To begin, Rulfo manipulates Eduviges, Damiana, and Dorotea in order to depcit them escorts to ease Juan into the afterlife. During Juan’s mother’s time in Comala, she maintains a close relationship with her best friend Eduviges. Due to the devoted connection Eduviges has with his mother, Juan encounters her first upon arriving in Comala:
I found the house by the bridge by following the sound of the river. I lifted my hand to knock, but there was nothing there. My hand met only empty space, as if the wind had blown open the door. A woman [Eduviges] stood there. She said, ‘Come in’ And I went in (Rulfo 9).
Eduviges operates as Juan’s foremost encounter with the supernatural forces in Comala. She reveals these forces to Juan in a manner that makes him suspicious, yet he accepts and seems comfortable with. Once Eduviges disappears a short while later, Juan meets his next guide, Damiana. She works on Pedro’s ranch, the Media Luna, as a workhand. During their time together, Damiana explains to Juan aspects of Comala’s spiritual nature,
This town is filled with echoes. I’m not afraid anymore. I hear the dogs howling, and I let them howl. And on windy days I see the wind blowing leaves from the trees, when anyone can see that there aren’t any trees here. There must have been once (41-42).
By acknowledging that most spirits freely roam through town, Daimana justifies Comala’s appearance as a ghost town, easing Juan’s confusion about the settlement and the people he encounters. Lastly, Dorotea serves as a companion for Juan’s duration in the spiritual world. As Juan and she lay in the grave, Dorotea attempts to accustom Juan to his time in purgatory, “Try to think nice thoughts, because we’re going to be a long time here in the ground” (61). Dorotea alleviates Juan of an uncertainty he possesses about their situation. Not only does Dorotea appear as a friend, she also guides Juan by teaching him to listen for the surrounding spirits, like Susana San Juan. Overall, Eduviges, Damiana, and Dorotea each aid Juan by directing his journey to the spiritual world.
Additionally, each of the female spirits conveys varying perspectives on Juan’s father, Pedro Páramo, helping the protagonist amass supplementary information about this unknown man. Beginning with Eduviges, she reveals the manipulative quality of Pedro as a young patrón. Not only does he trick Dolores into marrying him, Eduivges describes to Juan how Pedro sexually manipulates other women:
He would fall into a trance and roll his eyes and conjure and curse, with spittle flying everywhere – you’d of thought he was gypsy. Sometimes he would end up stark naked; he said we wanted it that way. And sometimes what he said came true. He shot at so many targets that once in a while he was bound to hit one (17).
Eduivges reveals Pedro’s sly nature of his early years as patrón; however, his irresponsibility does not last forever as Damiana demonstrates. She represents Pedro’s middle years on the Media Luna, a time where he seems not as reckless. In spite of all the horrid comments people remark about Pedro, he could not have been as awful considering that his workhand Damiana stays with him until the very end,
“It’s me, don Pedro,” said Damiana. “Don’t you want me to bring you your dinner?”Pedro Páramo replied: “I’m coming along. I’m coming.”He supported himself on Damiana Cisnero’s arm and tried to walk. After a few steps he fell; inside, he was begging for help, but no words were audible” (124).
Despite his horrible past, Damiana illustrates a kinder, more tolerable side of Pedro, helping Juan create a holistic view of his father. Finally, Dorotea depicts Pedro’s undeniable love for Susana San Juan. As Juan and she lay in the grave, he hears Susana’s voice in a nearby grave. Dorotea proceeds to explain the incontrovertible love Pedro has for Susana, “He loved her. I’m here to tell you that he never loved a woman like he loved that one… He loved her so much that after she died he spent the rest of his days slumped in a chair, staring down the road where they’d carried her to the holy ground” (80). Throughout the novel, very few people view Pedro Páramo in a positive light. Dorotea’s perspective of the patrón serves as a counterargument to Eduviges’ view, providing Juan with a holistic conception of his father’s character. In the end, Rulfo includes Eduviges, Damiana, and Dorotea in the novel Pedro Páramo in order to help Juan on his mission of learning about Pedro.
Moreover, Rulfo incorporates the three female voices in his novel Pedro Páramo due to their representation of the three Fates and their role as women play in Mexican culture. In Greek mythology, the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, determine human destinies, including the span of a person’s life. The Fates correlate with the process of dying, just like Eduviges, Damiana, and Dorotea. The latter three women assist Juan as he transitions into the spirit world. Eduviges introduces Juan to the beginning of his journey into the afterlife just as Clotho presents the life of the person as a ball of string. Then, Damiana helps Juan accept his reality of being in a town full of spirits, similar to the way Lachesis brings people to the realization of their life time by measuring out the string. Lastly, Dorotea arises during Juan’s death, just like Atropos who appears at the death of a person when she cuts the string. Since the journey to death seems frightening, Rulfo utilizes three women’s voices in order to calm Juan’s uneasiness. They ensure that Juan has a guide every step of the way and feels prepared for what might come, making the process appear less intimidating. For instance, Dorotea accustoms Juan to his new life after death. He appears very unfamiliar with his new situation and she attempts to calm him, “You don’t have to be afraid. No one can scare you now” (61). Here Dorotea appears to embody the nurturing role of a Mexican woman by soothing Juan’s anxiety about death. Overall, Rulfo’s reasoning for utilizing female voices in his novel Pedro Páramo results from their demonstration of the three Fates and the cultural role they play.
Rulfo ultimately shapes the characters of Eduviges Dyada, Damiana Cisnersos, and Dorotea La Cuarraca to serve as Juan’s guides in every stage during his time in Comala. Furthermore, the three women present themselves in Pedro Páramo in order to assist Juan in finding about more information on his father. Each of the three characters contributes a different perspective of Pedro to give Juan a holistic view of his personality. Their imitation of the three Fates explains one reason behind Rulfo’s choice to utilize female voices. Additionally, Eduviges, Damiana, and Dorotea care for Juan during his transition to the afterlife, exceedingly characteristic of a women’s role in Mexican culture.
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