The artifice characteristic of A Change of Skin is particularly obvious in the portrayal of its characters, who represent doubles or paired opposites in continual conflict rather than fully developed, believable personalities. Ironically, Javier is first attracted to Elizabeth because he sees her as his opposite, as a person who possesses the strength he lacks. It is only during their idyllic honeymoon in Greece that, at least in Elizabeth’s later reflections, their duality is briefly transcended. Their marriage later becomes a battleground where they play out their opposition in even the most trivial of gestures. As they enter the hotel room in Cholula, Javier draws the curtains, but Elizabeth immediately opens them complaining of Javier’s obsession with darkened rooms.
The fragmentation and conflict in their lives cripple Javier and Elizabeth. Javier becomes the stereotypical artist manqué, incapable of producing any work of substance. Like her husband, Elizabeth too lacks the wholeness that would enable her to create. The child she aborts stands as the tragic sign of her failure. The couple’s fragmentation and alienation is further manifested in the narrative itself as it records their disjointed conversations, which often degenerate into futile monologues or impossible dialogues between people who cannot hear each other.
While Elizabeth and Javier each represent the other’s opposing double, Fuentes’s doubling artifice...
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