Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Written at the height of his powers, Kiss of the Spider Woman is arguably Puig’s best and most famous novel. It was his first novel written after Puig left Argentina to escape political repression, his previous novel, The Buenos Aires Affair, having been banned for sexual explicitness. In light of this, Kiss of the Spider Woman, whose two main characters are a homosexual and a Marxist communist, may be seen as Puig’s public refusal to accommodate himself and his art to the forces of fear and bigotry.
The novel hardly has a plot in the usual sense, that is, a series of events building upon one another to a clear climax and resolution. The novel is composed primarily of dialogue between the characters: Molina, a thirty-seven-year-old window dresser, imprisoned for being what he is, a homosexual, and Valentin, a twenty-six-year-old Marxist imprisoned for political activities.
At the beginning of the novel the two seem to be antagonists, not so much due to bigotry but because each sees the other’s philosophy and lifestyle as irrelevant. Valentin does not look down on Molina because he is homosexual so much as he finds a commitment to homosexuality a selfish waste in a world that cries out for political reform. To Molina, Valentin’s political philosophy is an airy abstraction that does not measure up to the individual need for love and passion.
Molina dominates the dialogue, at least in terms of who...
(The entire section is 469 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Molina, an effeminate gay window dresser in Argentina, is growing discontented with the frivolous life he leads with his friends; he wants a lifelong partner. He becomes friends with a heterosexual waiter named Gabriel, who is married, but he knows the relationship will not lead to a romantic attachment. When he is convicted on charges of corrupting a minor, he is sentenced to eight years in prison without the possibility of parole.
Valentín is a journalism student in love with Marta, a beautiful and well-educated member of the upper class in Argentina. He is also secretly a member of the underground movement that seeks to overthrow the corrupt and oppressive military regime of the country. When he tells Marta of his involvement, she forces him to choose between her and the movement. Even though he loves Marta, he feels he has a responsibility to stand up to injustice, and he leaves her. In the movement, he has another girlfriend, named Lidia.
Valentín is never as deeply involved as many who are in the political rebellion, but he agrees to help Dr. Americo escape the country by giving him his own passport. Americo is one of the oldest living members of an earlier movement for true democracy. At the airport after making the exchange, Valentín is arrested. He is put in Molina’s cell.
At first, Valentín despises Molina. He thinks his effeminacy is a disgusting display of irresponsibility in the face of the sacrifices his friends in the movement are willing to make. Nevertheless, he does find Molina at least entertaining. Molina’s great talent is in telling stories, especially the tales he remembers from romantic films.
The film that Molina likes the most is a story set in Paris during World War II. Leni, a French chanteuse, learns that Michelle, the cigarette girl in her club, although a member of the French underground movement against the Germans, fell in love with a German soldier, by whom she is pregnant. Perhaps to help Michelle, or perhaps because of her own growing interest, Leni decides to accept the offer of Werner, the German officer in charge of counterintelligence, and visits his chateau. Meanwhile, thugs in the French underground learn of Michelle’s betrayal and kill her. Then they seek to coerce Leni to take Michelle’s place and to obtain the map to the German arsenal....
(The entire section is 955 words.)