Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
So Far from God, a complex, multidimensional novel, blends elements of New Mexican mythology, Pueblo stories, and European Catholicism with home remedies, recipes, and Castillo’s bitingly sardonic humor to tell the story of a remarkable family. The subtext of the novel examines the brutal poverty and discrimination faced by hispanic and indigenous peoples in the Southwest.
The novel is a probing critique of the racism, sexism, and materialism of American society in general and of social institutions such as the government, the church, and large corporations in particular. Woven into the narrative is a pointed examination of such contemporary issues as political oppression, economic exploitation, and environmental pollution. One of the novel’s main thematic focuses is environmental racism and the lack of protection afforded to minorities and the poor by the policies and agencies intended to safeguard them. The powerfully poetic chapter 15 juxtaposes brutal sociopolitical realities with the deep religious feelings of people making a Way of the Cross procession, presenting a catalog of social and environmental ills: minority families living below the poverty level, growing unemployment, deaths from toxic poisoning, radioactive dumping on reservations, birth defects and cancers linked to uranium contamination. The critique is not limited to sociopolitical issues, for the narrative also examines the problems of socially defined sex roles,...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
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Woman as Daughter, Wife, and Mother
One of the major themes in So Far From God is the idea of a woman's role in society. Traditionally, Hispanic women are taught to serve three people: father, husband, and child. These roles can be confining, particularly for modern women, and Castillo challenges this image of woman in her novel. The daughters, Esperanza, Fe, Caridad, and La Loca all try to be dutiful daughters and wives, yet they are unsuccessful in these roles. Esperanza's boyfriend leaves her for another woman, while Fe's husband drives her to a job that kills her. Caridad's marriage falls apart as do all of her other relationships, while La Loca's hatred of people effectively rules out romance. Even Sofi acts like a dutiful daughter and passes up the chance for true love. However Castillo complicates this theme by making the alternatives to the traditional role just as unsuccessful. Esperanza puts her career ahead of family and is killed, while her three sisters all choose paths that lead away from the traditional wife and mother syndrome and they all die childless as well. Castillo suggests that until women can see themselves as human beings first, they will be ultimately unsuccessful. Sofi loses everything her culture tells her is important: her husband, her children, and even her home. Only when she has nothing left to lose does Sofi realize that she must live her life for herself as a woman, not as someone's daughter or wife or mother....
(The entire section is 907 words.)