Isabel Allende's Narratives of Formation

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Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 15,346 words

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[(essay date 2003) In this essay, Ramblado-Minero maintains that Allende's texts operate at two levels: they portray the author's own formation and development of self-identity, and they offer a depiction of the female self based on the author's own experience and ideology.]

The Difficulty of Saying "I."1

The separation between the identities of the writer and the woman who writes is an essential aspect of the different simulation strategies used by Isabel Allende in her self-writing. This split has been discussed in Chapter Two [of Isabel Allende's Writing of the Self--Trespassing the Boundaries of Fiction and Autobiography], where fictionalisation and allegory allow the writer to write the self within the realm of fiction. However, this disruption is also manifested through female characterisation in Isabel Allende's narrative.

Although Isabel Allende does not appear as such in her novels, with her own name, as a unified self, she may insert her ideology and experience, as presented in her autobiographical utterances, into the characters that she creates. She may also insert other people, as well as events and places, as seen in Chapter Two [of Isabel Allende's Writing of the Self]. This insertion may be done in a fragmentary way, that is, 'sharing' the woman writer's first level simulation, or at least traits of it, among different characters. Thus, it is possible to identify here one of the simulation strategies previously assigned to self-writing in Chapter One [of Isabel Allende's Writing of the Self].

Fragmentation is thus manifested not only through the disruption of linearity or chronological order, but also through simulations of identity by means of the creation of fictional characters. This fragmentary insertion does not only relate back to the writer herself; it can also produce characters that lead back to people whom the writer has known, such as friends and relations. However, the way in which they are simulated in fiction corresponds to the manner in which they have been simulated in autobiographical utterances, thus re-inscribing the writer's images of those people. In a sense, this is problematic when dealing with Allende's fiction, as the second level simulations of people such as Tata/Esteban Trueba and William Gordon/Gregory Reeves tend to be accepted as representations. Also, and closely connected to the concept of simulation, the impossibility of representing unified selves leaves a gap between the two types of characterisation (in fiction and autobiographical utterances) which is perpetuated by the unidirectional character of the discourse (which comes from the writer alone); that is, there is no other way of familiarising the readers with the characters both fictional and 'real' but through Allende's narratives, whether novelistic or autobiographical.

Nevertheless, this essay is concerned only with characters that lead back to the writer herself, as they are there for a reason: to aid in the textual construction of the woman writer's identity, to show the different stages in the development of such an identity, to show the process of formation of the woman who writes. The process of formation from childhood...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100088061