And of Clay Are We Created

by Isabel Allende

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Azucena is willing to accept her fate, but Rolf is not. Why does Rolf work so hard to keep Azucena alive?  

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There are several reasons why Rolf Carle tries so desperately to keep Azucena alive.  First of all, Rolf had a sister who died from abuse.  Katharina was disabled, and Rolf would hide her to avoid their father’s abuse.  Katharina dies, and Rolf feels overwhelming grief for “abandoning” her.  Rolf feels empathy for and has a personal connection with Azuneca because of his sister’s life. 

In addition, as Rolf sits with Azucena over the course of the three days, he begins to also remember the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.  His father would whip him with a belt and lock him in an armoire for hours. His also saw his father abuse his mother.  Rolf says that he realizes that “he was Azucena”, and unlike Azucena who is physically trapped by the mud, Rolf has been trapped by his own memories and life.  That is why he has chosen to detach from the world and view it through the lens of a camera until he meets Azucena.

Rolf has also seen death and once had to bury the dead in a concentration camp.  He knows what it means to die and be buried with no one there to give solace or love. He wants to save Azucena to show her that she is loved.  Unfortunately, Azucena dies and sinks into the mud when Rolf finally lets go of her hands.

In a way, by saving Azucena, Rolf is saving himself. At the end of the story when he is journeying through his grief over her death, he is also coming to grips with his own life experiences.

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