Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Images of madness and crowning reappear throughout the novel to signify a transcending of or escape from the lot of the characters’ lives. In her madness, Misiá Elisa insists persistently that her family descends from the crowns of Europe and that she deserves to be treated as such. The aging lady fills the silence of the house with violent accusations against Andrés and Estela for being lustful and of dubious morality, while she, on the other hand, stands as a model of purity, a saint. It is no surprise that her maids, attentive to her every whim, crown her on her saint’s day. The ancient lady contaminates her grandson with the same kind of madness. They become obsessed with perverse sexuality because neither has enjoyed sex in a meaningful way. Ironically, they constitute each other’s only source of affection and love; since they are both incapable of feeling or giving love, their deprived existence expresses itself in a condemnation of precisely that which they desire most. For this same reason, Andrés—an emotional cripple—collects walking sticks. Misiá Elisa’s obsession with being crowned indicates a need to flee her impoverished reality of isolation and immobility. This immobility propels her into a world where she reigns and controls her subjects. These two characters bear a cane and a crown as a caricature of their repressed obsessions.

When Andrés first feels the incongruity of his surroundings he creates the world of Omsk, where...

(The entire section is 403 words.)