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...
(The entire section is 955 words.)
The story begins with two men, Molina, a homosexual window-dresser, and Valentin, a Marxist political activist, sharing a prison cell. Molina has been convicted of a sexual "perversion," while Valentin has been arrested for his revolutionary activities. In order to pass the time, Molina describes in great detail to Valentin a movie he once saw. Although the movie is not named directly in the story, it is recognizable as the classic Hollywood movie Cat People, which was released in 1943. In this movie, a woman is transformed into a panther who attacks people at night. Although he reluctantly listens in order to relieve the boredom of prison, Valentin makes fun of Molina for his obsession with what he perceives to be a shallow, inane movie. But Valentin grows to like hearing about Molina's movies and becomes increasingly engaged in the stories. Although Valentin continues to be disdainful of Molina, when he becomes sick from food poisoning the prison officials have put in his dinner, Molina takes care of him, thus winning his increased affection and gratitude.
Molina is secretly asked by the prison officials to try to get Valentin to reveal to him information significant to his revolutionary cause. Molina tries to gain Valentin's trust for this purpose but becomes emotionally attached to Valentin in the process. Valentin likewise becomes increasingly emotionally attached to Molina. Molina meanwhile attempts to stall the prison officials in order to...
(The entire section is 512 words.)