I chose to look deeply at this story as at its core it is the same story as my Ringtone. And Jess' feedback regarding how to make the story not a cliché, how to tell it in a new and interesting way is what I am wrangling with. Cisneros is also telling the the old old tale of a woman scorned. How does Cisneros keep it fresh? There is, of course, the human voyeuristic delight in being inside a sordid tale. If the author builds us a character that we can place our faith or affection in, then we will hunt through the story for vengeance or justice. Cisneros does not deliver a protagonist that easily loved, and yet the reader feels empathy for Clemencia.
First, she uses the backdrop of race and class to drive the storyline. Clemencia is the child of two parents of different prejudices. Her mother who felt her citizenship made her better than her spouse.
"Never marry a Mexican, my ma said once and always. She said this because of my father. She said this though she was Mexican too. But she was born here in the U.S. and he was born there, and it's not the same, you know." (p.109) Her father immigrated from a middle class Mexican family for reasons other than hardship. His family found her mother to be less than because she was so poor. Both considered the other to be inferior.
"But what could be more ridiculous than a Mexican girl who couldn't even speak Spanish, who didn't know enough to set a separate plate for each course at dinner, nor how to fold cloth napkins, nor how to set the silverware." (p.110) Cisneros puts a fine point on this by explaining that if her mother had been white and poor her father would have been marrying up.
Additionally, Drew her white lover, gives her the nickname of Cortés's slave and mistress, Mallinali. So the juxtaposition of white and brown, rich and poor, powerful and dispossessed serves a dual role. It sets the background for the story and it develops the reader's understanding of Clemencia. She talks a big game, but she's really a coward when it comes to asserting herself with Drew. And so when he scorns her by saying he'd never marry her, Cisneros brings the phrase "never marry a Mexican" (Clemencia's words not Drew's) right back into the fore, the reader understands that the protagonist is not just at the wrong end of an affair but the victim of her ancestry and it's cultural judgments.
Cisneros builds the contrast with Clemencia's descriptions of Drew's wife and the boy's mother. The boy has his mother's features and "skin like roses in December". Megan has "drawing room English", and looks like a "red headed Barbie doll". She is a white wealthy woman. And Cisneros could have made that the reason that Drew, also a painter, chooses Megan. But instead, Drew's explanation, "A young girl like me. Hadn't I understood…responsibilities. Besides he could never marry me." (p.116) Despite Clemencia's declarations of love and power over Drew, she is secondary, she is not worthy of marriage.
"So no, I've never married and never will. Not because I couldn't, but because I'm too romantic for marriage. Marriage has failed me, you could say. Not a man exists who hasn't disappointed me, whom I could trust to love the way I've loved." (p. 110) Me thinks she doth protest too much. Clearly marriage with Drew has evaded her.
Cisneros heightens plot by having Clemencia exact her revenge. "I sleep with this boy, their son. To make the boy love me the way I love his father." (p118) This positioning of a goes around, come around twist develops the reader's relationship with the character through both repulsion (the boy is in high school) and pity. A grown woman sleeping with a child to make him love her makes Clemencia a sordid and pathetic character. She is indeed capable of anything, but incapable of having a love relationship.
The other way that Cisneros keeps it fresh is through her time shifts and change of addressees. There are three audiences in this story; the reader who gets narrative description to explain the situation Clemencia is in, Drew and the boy. This serves to create a somewhat fragmented storyline that Cisneros manages very effectively. And the style choice heightens the fragmented mind of the protagonist as well. The reader is as in between the three waves of story as is Clemencia. Everyone is trying to find their place.
Never Marry A Mexican By Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros’s “Never Marry a Mexican” introduces readers to Clemencia. Cisneros eludes Clemencia as a woman who appears proud of her Mexican heritage, yet knows not how the slanderous phrase “Never marry a Mexican” uttered from her well-meaning mother’s trusty lips about Clemencia’s own Mexican father negatively foreshadows her seedy life and gloomy world perspective later down her destructive journey of adulthood.
Simply put, Clemencia’s relationship with her mother is "like [she] never had one" (Cisneros 131) especially during the final moments of her sickly father's life. When Clemencia's mom meets a white man during her father's hospitalization, Clemencia's mom instantaneously begins dating him. Why not? Owen Lambert is definitely not Mexican. Clemencia's mother seems to be in her own world as she completely disregards her life with her former husband and their children. This does not bode well for Clemencia as she holds a lot of resentment towards her mother, that will likely never resolve due to the fact that Clemencia's mom is not around in the world anymore. Even though, her mother may not be in this world anymore, Clemencia will always wonder why her mom did marry her father.
On the other hand, Cisneros depicts Clemencia to be a bit of a “daddy's girl", so the degrading way her mother talks about him as if Clemencia's father is “nothing but a showoff"(Cisneros 128) irks Clemencia immensely. Clemencia sees her father not as a showoff, but just like his things: "calidad. Quality” (Cisneros 129). Clemencia's father was not born in the US, so her own father views US Mexicans to be not on par with the Mexicans who originate from Mexico. In her father’s opinion Mexican girls" who didn't know enough to set a separate plate for each course at a dinner, nor how to fold cloth napkins, nor how to set the silverware” (Cisneros 127) are ridiculous. Clemencia knows not how to do these things.
When Cisneros begins to describe Clemencia's intimate life, Clemencia appears to be a femme fatale through the eyes of others. She has numerous affairs with married men but will never marry herself as Clemencia claims she's" too romantic” (Cisneros 127). Why is that? Does she not consider herself being able to love or have someone love her?
Drew, her longest lover, deeply affects Clemencia's sense of being in regards to her own...
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