Of Love and Shadows

by Isabel Allende

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How does the book "Of Love and Shadows" portray political violence?

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Isabel Allende’s novel is set against the backdrop of a country ruled with an iron fist. The country is unnamed, but the society depicted is likely to be Chile in its early years under dictatorial rule. You can see the political violence through the eyes of the protagonists, a journalist and a photographer.

Irene's innocence and optimism are challenged by the discovery of Evangelina's body in a mass grave. Evangelina's death symbolizes the oppressive nature of the military regime. A population accustomed to democratic leadership is controlled by fear and persecution. Thousands of people disappear without a trace. Political opponents are held in detention for months or years. Family members are given no information about their imprisoned relatives. They never get to know the fate of their loved ones. Some are subjected to torture and then killed and buried in hidden graves.

Military death squads routinely erase the lives of innocent civilians, and overcrowded morgues and the rubble of a terrorized country depict the horrors of political violence in the novel.

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Francisco and Irene were working on a story about a faith healer in unnamed Latin American community.  They accidently discovered the secret burial ground of the police assassins, Irene is shot and the pair is in constant danger of being killed by the authorities. The oppressive regime which the two lovers stumble upon infiltrates every level of the text. An example of the suspense is evident in the wonderful storytelling of Allende, “If they were caught they could expect a bullet in the head, and a quick burial on the spot.  People died for far less.” (pg 194)  As a reader we can easily see the effect of the autocratic militarian government on the people. 

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