Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Piura. Provincial city in Peru where Vargas Llosa grew up, attended college, and wrote for a local newspaper. The Green House draws upon experiences he had there; its story line about the virgin Bonifacia, who is taken from the Amazon jungle to the Piura brothel is inspired by a trip he made with anthropologists on which he saw how Indian girls were drafted into prostitution.
Green House. Piura brothel around which the novel’s stories are interwoven in a nonlinear narrative. The novel’s title links the primal lusts of civilization in Piura, embodied by the whorehouse, with the primitive world of the lush, green jungle.
*Amazon basin. Rain forest region that extends from Brazil into eastern Peru. The novel opens on a tributary of the great Amazon River on which two nuns are being boated downstream by a rowdy crew of police and military men. The characters melt into a landscape of casual talk and flood of visual observation. No narrator sorts out which characters are important or what is going on. After thirteen pages without a single paragraph break, the novel suddenly cuts to a scene with different characters, who seem unrelated to what has gone before them. The entire book follows the pattern established in its opening pages. Past and present flow together. What happens first is never told first. Every beginning is instead the end of...
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Vargas Llosa uses a variety of techniques to render as graphically and objectively as possible the surroundings that affect each character's actions. To achieve a surface portrayal of reality he often resorts to cinematic devices such as an omniscient "camera eye" that registers details and objects in a given setting. The multilayered structure is achieved mainly through montage (another simulated film device), which serves not only to juxtapose time frames but also to contrast the past and present of a character's existence in different settings.
Vargas Llosa also employs a device referred to by critics as the telescoping of dialogues, one which juxtaposes the dialogues of different characters (on the same incident) from different points in time. The dialogues encompass the immediate present, an immediate past and a more remote past. They telescope distance in time, moving from the present to the past, from the past to the present.
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In The Green House, which spans about forty years, Vargas Llosa depicts Peru's social conditions in two settings, the jungle environment at Santa Maria de Nieva which features a mission and military outpost along the upper Maranon river in the Amazon jungle, and Piura, a provincial town in northwestern Peru. By juxtaposing several story lines, he is able to focus simultaneously on several social concerns.
The tragic results of efforts to Christianize the Indian are exemplified by the plight of young Aguaruna Indian girls who are abducted by a group of Spanish nuns (with the help of soldiers stationed at Santa Maria de Nieva) for the purpose of training them at their jungle mission. Uprooted from their culture and thrust into an alien world that never accepts them because of their racial origins, the girls end up in prostitution or servitude. The torture and exploitation of the Indian during the rubber boom days are graphically described to reveal the author's concern for the Indian, who continues to be victimized by ruthless government officials and unscrupulous feudal overlords. The portrayal of a group of ne'er-do-wells in the slum expresses Vargas Llosa's preoccupation with the effects of unemployment on the burgeoning young population in Spanish America. Finally, in describing the conditions at the brothel in Piura, he condemns the institution as an exploiter of women, and in denominating it The Green House, he evokes an image...
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The works of the contemporary Spanish American writers known as the "novelists of the boom" are characterized by techniques revealing the influence of James Joyce, William Faulkner, and John Dos Passos. The writings of Vargas Llosa, who is part of that group, exemplify this influence and that of Gustave Flaubert. In several interviews and in The Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert and Madame Bovary (1986; La orgia perpetua: Flaubert y Madame Bovary, 1975), Vargas Llosa has emphasized Flaubert's objectivity in his presentation of character, plot, and action. Objectivity and impersonal presentation (free of authorial intrusion and mediation) are characteristic of Vargas Llosa's novels. Joyce, Faulkner, and Dos Passos have inspired his juxtaposition of temporal planes, use of multiple points of view, and telescoping of dialogues.
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Beason, Gary. “The Green House Effect: A Study of Latin American Sex Roles.” RE: Artes Liberales 13 (1986): 11-19. Offers insight into Latin American gender roles. It aids in the understanding of characters’ actions and relationships.
Diez, Luys A. “The Sources of The Green House: The Mythical Background of a Fabulous Novel.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 19 (1977): 429-444. Shows the relationship among the novel, an interview with Vargas Llosa, Vargas Llosa’s log book, and Diez’s own responses to personal experiences at the locations of the novel.
Harss, Luis. “Green House Mirrors.” World Literature Today 52 (1978): 34-38. Deals with archetypes found in literature and shows a relationship among similar images in various novels. Presents an interesting discussion of theme based on the color green.
Moody, Michael. “Landscapes of the Damned: Natural Setting in La Casa Verde.” Kentucky Romance Quarterly 27 (1988): 495-508. Examines the use of setting to convey meaning and to express Vargas Llosa’s view of reality. It shows how one literary element is vital to the whole novel.
Moody, Michael. “A Small Whirlpool: Narrative Structure in The Green House.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 19...
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