Ana María Matute Margaret W. Jones - Essay

Margaret W. Jones

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Analyses of Matute's works reveal a surprising diversity of techniques. Even within a single novel, this variation in style [is evident]…. (p. 5)

A glance at the works themselves will establish this astounding variety of styles. Lush and poetic in one passage, harsh and realistically detailed in another, grotesque and fantastic in still another, these apparently tentative stabs at literary experimentation are, in fact, an intentional effort to fuse the manner of expression with the development of the material.

One of the most original results of the author's stylistic preoccupation is a marked emphasis on descriptions of nature, and specifically, the deliberate deformation of certain elements of nature to harmonize with the emotional reactions of the protagonist. Matute's modern use of pathetic fallacy has not escaped [notice.]… (p. 6)

The majority of Matute's references to nature fall naturally into two distinct groups. The first of these is the background against which the action is to unfold. All of nature—trees, sky, land, etc.—forms a stylized whole which, although often harsh and cruel, is nonetheless believable. This type of "realistic," though stylized, treatment of nature will not be considered. The dramatic distortion of natural elements to which I am referring is entirely separate from the comprehensive description of the background and functions specifically in accordance with the point of view of the main character. The general elements of nature which will be examined here are all inanimate phenomena: flora, manifestations of weather, and references to the land and sea.

Although a large portion of this author's writing does offer the above-mentioned distortion in varying degrees, the three major works in which this technique is most advantageously presented are Fiesta al noroeste, Los hijos muertos, and Primera memoria. These prize-winning novels are thematically connected by the attention given to the unhappiness and solitude of the main characters; they sketch as well a strange picture of nature which reinforces the bitterness and desolation of these people.

Fiesta al noroeste deals with the anguished psychological struggle of the main character, Juan Medinao…. The tremendous tensions suffered by Juan are reflected in the grotesque imagery scattered throughout the novel. (pp. 6-7)

The use of nature to suggest and enhance … pessimistic vision is a common technique throughout Ana Maria Matute's novels. A note of fatalism is introduced as the reader perceives that the characters function in accord with the background, which is by no means static, but a living, threatening participant in the action of the story itself. The impression of man's solitude is reinforced by a hostile nature, which is not only indifferent to his suffering, but also deformed to harmonize with the violence of emotions or events which take place in the work. (p. 8)

[The] descriptive passages in Fiesta al noroeste do not consist exclusively by nature symbols; the distorted vision of the protagonist is enhanced by equally grotesque phrases, many of which are particularly rich in living-nature images….

Although the stylization of inanimate nature in this book is not as outstanding as in the later novels …, it is clear that an effort has been made to coordinate the feelings of Juan Medinao with his own deformity and his physical surroundings. The equation of flowers-blood and sun-blood … suggests a violence which these elements will symbolize to a much greater degree in both Los hijos muertos and Primera memoria….

With [Los hijos muertos], the author has achieved her most ambitious undertaking…. The novel is a panorama of several generations of one family, united by the same blood, yet irrevocably separated by different ideas and values.

The problems...

(The entire section is 1629 words.)