In "And of Clay Are We Created," what is the relationship between Rolf Carlé and the narrator?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"And of Clay Are We Created" is a short story by Isabel Allende from her 1989 anthology The Stories of Eva Luna. The narrator, unnamed in the story, is Eva Luna, a documentarian and the lover of Rolf Carlé, a reporter who goes to cover a volcanic eruption and becomes emotionally attached to a young girl who has been trapped in heavy mud, unable to move.

Early in the story, the narrator says:

When the station called before dawn, Rolf Carlé and I were together. I crawled out of bed, dazed with sleep, and went to prepare coffee while he hurriedly dressed. He stuffed his gear in the green canvas backpack he always carried, and we said goodbye, as we had so many times before. I had no presentiments. I sat in the kitchen, sipping my coffee and planning the long hours without him, sure that he would be back the next day.

They have been separated by his work many times before. His leaving to cover a story is nothing new, and the narrator takes it all in stride. As the story wears on and takes its emotional toll on Carlé, the narrator says:

The screen reduced the disaster to a single plane and accentuated the tremendous distance that separated me from Rolf Carlé; nonetheless, I was there with him. The child's every suffering hurt me as it did him; I felt his frustration, his impotence.

Deeply connected to Carlé's suffering, the narrator attempts to use influence in media to arrange help, but cannot, and feels as helpless as Carlé does on the impersonal television screen. Without a connection, the narrator is forced to infer what Carlé is feeling and thinking, and despite the tragedy of the story and Carlé's descent into guilt and sorrow, the narrator remains optimistic:

You are back with me, but you are not the same man. ... Your cameras lie forgotten in a closet; you do not write or sing; you sit long hours before the window, staring at the mountains. Beside you, I wait for you to complete the voyage into yourself, for the old wounds to heal. I know that when you return from your nightmares, we shall again walk hand in hand, as before.
(All Quotes: Allende, "And of Clay Are We Created,"

Carlé had done everything he could to save the girl, but he is still obsessed with the story because he spent so much time investing himself in it. The narrator, on the other hand, was invested through Carlé but not in the story itself; recognizing that Carlé needs to come to his own reconciliation with the event, the narrator takes the role of supporter, being strong where Carlé cannot so that when he is able to accept that he was not responsible and that his actions eased the last days of a young girl, they can be together as before, instead of separated by the story.

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And of Clay Are We Created

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