Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The cultural schizophrenia brought about by the Spanish conquest of the New World is the theme underlying the events of “The Two Elenas.” The protagonist, Victor, is simultaneously attracted to two women who are completely different types. His wife is a composite of all that is foreign: She sees French and American motion pictures, drives a British car, glorifies the American black, studies French and reads French poetry, and listens to American jazz. In another sense, her ideas and behavior are foreign, that is, strange or uncharacteristic within the context of her upbringing. Victor admires her so-called naturalness, but the trait he describes has less to do with nature than with an adolescent sort of rebellion against all established norms of conduct. She denies rules, not to replace them with others, but to open a door, suggesting a fascination with the innovative. Her motives are dubious, however, because she merely challenges, regardless of the standard in question. For example, Elena continually strives to subvert the middle-class values of her parents by shocking their bourgeois morality, while at the same time, to her liberal-minded friends she dismisses the possibility of unfaithfulness because it has become as much a rule as communion every Friday used to be. Her refusal to conform may account for her modern, vivacious attitude, but it is also a sign of immaturity, or incomplete development.

The consequent limitations on her ability to understand are like a blindness that she has in common with her father; both are asleep, but whereas her dreams belong to other places, his belong to other times....

(The entire section is 664 words.)