Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Cooking Lesson” uses interior monologue to portray a housewife’s silent indictment of gender roles as representative of the general voicelessness of women in Mexican society. The monologue suggests that those in a subordinate role are not free to speak their minds.

Irony is used throughout the story to address and debunk cultural conventions. While mocking her role, the wife suggests the burden social dictates place on women: “For example, choosing the menu. How could one carry out such an arduous task without the cooperation of society—of all history?” The narrator, who obviously resents her role, describes herself as a “self-sacrificing little Mexican wife, born like a dove to the nest.” She sarcastically denounces both male sexual competence and female pleasure: “The classic moan. Myths. Myths.” Deriding the notion that a woman is an incomplete being without a man, she says that she has undergone “a profound metamorphosis.” Previously, she “didn’t know and now I know; I didn’t feel and now I feel; I wasn’t and now I am.” Because society at large considers that a female’s greatest accomplishment is securing a husband, the narrator ridicules the gratefulness implicitly elicited from brides saved from spinsterhood.

By consistently alternating the wife’s train of thought between two frustrating experiences (marriage and cooking), Castellanos juxtaposes the focus to suggest the analogy of wife to meat. Furthermore, the use of flashbacks to depict a change in consciousness suggests the wife’s daydreaming state while cooking. The lack of transition between past and present in the narration can be as abrupt as “I . . . The meat,” thus exemplifying the wife’s blurring of identity, a subject turned object.