In The House on the Lagoon, stereotypical perceptions of Puerto Ricans as docile, reverential, gregarious, and noncompetitive are challenged. Ferré’s male and female characters are at times destructive and self-serving. As Puerto Rico has been oppressed by the ruling majority since colonial times, Puerto Rico has, in turn, oppressed its mulatto population.
On the other hand, Ferré’s characters have come under attack from some critics. Although hundreds of characters populate the novel—the author includes a detailed family tree of both Quintín’s and Isabel’s families—critics have accused Ferré of creating stereotypical, one-dimensional portraits: rich men’s wives who dabble in the arts to pass the time; greedy, exploitative businessmen; black characters whose main function is to serve the upper classes. Characters who do take up political or feminist beliefs for the most part abandon these beliefs when they are no longer expedient.
By including a multitude of characters in her novel, Ferré is able to represent the complex mix of Puerto Rican society and to incorporate a wide range of opposing political views, from independence and statehood to support of the island’s status quo as a commonwealth, from an open endorsement of Spanish as the official language to the struggle to make English the national language. Thus Ferré chronicles some of Puerto Rico’s major political and emotional upheavals in the twentieth century while simultaneously focusing on the diplomatic, cultural, and domestic spheres of existence.
Buenaventura Mendizabal, the Spanish father of...
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