Kiss of the Spider Woman

by Manuel Puig

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How does the storytelling of Cat People show themes of sexual repression in Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman?

The theme of sexual repression is evident in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Molina tells Valentin a story about two characters who are sexually repressed, and Valentin offers insight into what he believes the underlying issues to be. This causes the reader to question how well they know their own sexuality.

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The telling of Cat People by Molina is one of intriguing romanticism full of excitement and sexual situations that stir up Molina. Valentin sees through the lore of the panther transformation to present an allegorical tale (as he calls it) of sexual repression.

Valentin goes beyond the story to analyze...

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the characters and their behavior and to create their backstories. He offers insight into the sexually repressed architect as he explains his attachment to his mother and his need to care for Irena rather than be her husband. These incidents foreshadow and parallel future situations and discussions between Valentin and Molina and expand on the theme of sexual repression as the backstories of Molina and Valentin are revealed.

Molina is sexually repressed by society because he has the same nurturing quality as the architect and identifies as a woman. Molina takes care of Valentin, nurses him when he is poisoned, and nurtures him with stories and gourmet food to continue the theme of repression as explained by Valentin.

Valentin himself is repressed because of his commitment to the revolution; he denies everything else, including Molina's descriptions of food and women in the telling of Cat People. Nevertheless, Valentin understands the story and finds reasons to interject his comments on the sexual thoughts and behavior of the characters. Their sex lives seem to be his main interest in the story, something he needs to talk about, fantasize about, or be part of.

"Storytelling" is the key word in this question. The theme of sexual repression is not only in Cat People but in Molina's telling and Valentin's comments and analysis, as well as in how much of it is played out as their story unravels.

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Molina's retelling of Cat People is significant for a couple of reasons.  The premise of a woman appearing one way during the day and then transforming at night, away from the eyes of others, is significant to how the transformation in the relationship between Molina and Valentin develops.  In the light of day, both of them represent opposite ends, and Valentin in particular would not embrace anything in terms of ignition of a spark between them.  Yet, in the isolated and dark walls of prison, a relationship emerges between them, transformation is evident.  It is in this where the plot of the film has significance. 

At the same time, it brings up the idea that there are multiple sides to what it means to be a human being.  The protagonist in Molina's film appears one way during the day and in another form at night.  The changing of human beings to reflect another aspect of their own identity is something of importance to the drama.  The notion of sexual repression is something that we see at the start of the drama, but as time passes and as the men become closer to one another, a new element to their own identity is revealed. 

It is here where the narration of the Hollywood film is connected to sexual repression, reflecting how social conventions and prejudices can be put aside and how true understanding can emerge if individuals are able to embrace the idea that they are more than singular and monistic elements.

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