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 something begun earlier. In this way Vargas Llosa suggests that the jungle river, like the oddly constructed house painted green, is a metaphor for the world of Piura and for the Latin American experience in general. This experience involves struggles to separate what is real from what is fiction, what is indigenous from what is European culture, what is men’s life from what is women’s life, what is the modernity of urbanization and what is traditional culture as experienced through the magical landscapes of both city and jungle.
Vargas Llosa relies on a spiral, flowing narrative mode, characterized by a flood of text, unmarked by paragraph indentations, or quotation marks—much like that of the Maranon River with its “six violent miles of whirlpools, rocks, and torrents.”
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 (1977): 408-428. Discusses the synthesis of the five story lines presented in The Green House. Moody asserts that the seemingly formless novel is unified by the chronological sequence of narrative episodes and that the various events make up one experience.