Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The epigraph from Fernández’s story comes from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. She intentionally leaves the quotation in Spanish, not translating it, and in this way she announces her identity: She will braid together her two traditions, her experiences as a girl in the Mexican American society of South Texas, and her life as a woman in California, where no one can understand her sense of loss when her cape disappears.

Roughly translated, the epigraph says, “Where is the child that I was? Does it continue inside of me or has it gone? Why do we spend so much time growing just to sever connections?” These questions are answered dramatically within the story. Fernández’s narrator focuses on the past in order to preserve it, in order to keep the child inside alive. The narrator will not accept a world in which the child that she was will disappear, not only because the past contained magical experiences but also because the past is part of her unique heritage as a Mexican American.

Fernández, who earned her Ph.D. in Romance languages from the University of California, Berkeley, does not turn her back on her past; through her writings she creates connections between herself as a writer and the women of South Texas who were her first models as artists and artisans. If Neruda wonders why one must spend so much time severing connections, Fernández posits a world in which people need to spend time forging connections between the past and the present, between the Latin American and the North American literary traditions, between the role models of childhood and adult heroes. Neruda may be an important poet for Fernández, but the type of character that Amanda is also serves as a significant source of inspiration, an example of how to live in this world that seems to encourage people to cut ties, move forward, and become adults who can function adroitly in a world based almost entirely on reason and consumerism. In “Amanda,” alternative models are held up for scrutiny and for applause.