Why does Felice feel like hollering whenever she crosses Woman Hollering Creek? What epiphany does Cleofilas have?

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Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros is a short story that follows the journey of a young woman, her underwhelming marriage, and ultimately her decision to leave. Set against the backdrop of the Mexican-American experience, the story examines the social role of women, particularly in regard to their relationships with...

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Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros is a short story that follows the journey of a young woman, her underwhelming marriage, and ultimately her decision to leave. Set against the backdrop of the Mexican-American experience, the story examines the social role of women, particularly in regard to their relationships with men.

One of the story's most important images is that of a creek called "La Gritona" or Woman Hollering Creek. The creek is in the backyard of Cleófilas' new house when she moves to the United States. When we first learn of the creek, Cleófilas wonders if the woman for whom it is named was yelling from anger or from pain. With this comment, Cisernos reveals that Cleófilas has a limited view of womanhood. Cleófilas can conceive of only two reasons that a woman might shout. She doesn't even consider that a woman might shout for other reasons, such as happiness or excitement.

At the end of the story, the image of Woman Hollering Creek returns as we find Cleófilas and Felice crossing it as Felice helps Cleófilas flee from her abusive marriage. They cross a bridge over the creek and Felice lets out a loud yell, startling Cleófilas.

Noticing the effect of her yell, Felice explains that she yells every time she crosses Woman Hollering Creek:

Every time I cross that bridge I do that. Because of the name, you know. Woman Hollering. Pues, I holler. She said this in a Spanish pocked with English and laughed. Did you ever notice, Felice continued, how nothing around here is named after a woman? Really. Unless she's the Virgin. I guess you're only famous if you're a virgin. She was laughing again.

That's why I like the name of that arroyo. Makes you want to holler like Tarzan, right?

Felice is one of the independent, wage-earning women that Cleófilas encounters in the tale. She represents a world different from what Cleófilas knows. When she arrived in the United States, Cleófilas understood her womanhood through marriage, as depicted in telenovelas. Later, she understood her womanhood differently as she suffered abuse at the hands of her unfaithful husband. Felice represents an entirely different way to understand womanhood, and it is an understanding that does not revolve around men.

Ultimately, Felice's yell leads Cleófilas to an epiphany that leaves her laughing at the end of the story. Felice's triumphant yell shows Cleófilas a different understanding of what it is to be a woman. Felice yells from a place of independence; she yells out of joy simply because she likes that the creek is named for a woman. As Cleófilas considers Felice's yell, she realizes she can shout for reasons other than pain or rage. She can shout for joy.

 

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