Compare the relationship between love, madness and death in La Gallina Degollada and El Almohadón de Pluma by Quiroga. Comment on both form and content.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In "La Gallina Degollada" love is the powerful agent that binds Mazzini and Berta strongly enough to motivate them to seal their passion with the birth of a child. Their love is tested when the first and second child are born normal yet, one by one, suffer fevers that render them mentally incapacitated. When the twin boys are born afterwards, and the same thing occurs, their love sours as blame and shame are thrown around. Yet, they hope for another child, and each time they think of the possibility of a normal child, they become more bound to each other. In fact, by the time Bertita is born (normal) they completely focus their love on Bertita and themselves while completely abandoning the first four children. The love is directed toward the good, the beautiful, and the ideal: the reality of the other four children greatly hindered their capacity to extend their love for the less fortunate.

The stunted love that was denied to the four children rendered them "animalistic" to the point of imitating the killing of a farm chicken for dinner with the killing of their own sister Bertita. Turns out they were capable of being molded after all, had their parents been less selfish as to devote themselves to the only child that reflected positively on them. In not so many words, the love of Mazzini and Berta could be considered superficial because they only agree with whatever makes their relationship look good. 

In "El Almohadón de Pluma" we find another instance of stunted and superficial love in the character of Alicia. Alicia, who marries young and naíve, is characterized as someone who enters the state of marriage with false expectations and girlish ideas. These ideas apparently came to a dangerous halt after the marriage was consummated. We learn that Jordán, while he loves his wife, is unable to show it.  The reader could infer that Alicia was less than satisfied as a woman, contrary to what she expected, and that the creature that is discovered to have been sucking her blood to the point of killing her is a euphemism for the sexual frustration and overall death of passion that, slowly, took her womanhood and her "all" away forever. 

Both stories are told from the third person omniscient subjective point of view because, while the narrator keeps a distance from the plot, the emotions and motivations of each character are revealed and even analyzed. The lack of love leads to a lack of sanity. The inability to give love pushes those who suffer from it to fade away, or commit gruesome things. In both stories this pattern is evident, as well as the fact that, in the end, all leads to death either actively or passively. Therefore, such is the power of love. It is strong enough to change the world around us, or even end it for good. 

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