And of Clay Are We Created

by Isabel Allende

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“And of Clay Are We Created,” the last short story in Isabel Allende’s collection The Stories of Eva Luna, is based upon a real event. Omayra Sanchez was a young victim of the 1985 earthquake in Colombia. The story is told by the heroine of Allende’s third novel Eva Luna, whose lover, Rolf Carlé, is the main character. With a carefully crafted plot and delicate images, Allende illustrates the theme of self-discovery through love, the same theme that runs through all the stories in this volume.

The story’s first line, “They discovered the girl’s head protruding from the mudpit, eyes wide open, calling soundlessly,” not only begins the action and sets the story but also establishes the image of the eyes and the theme of insight. The last sentence of the paragraph foreshadows the ending: “Rolf Carlé . . . never suspect[ed] that he would find a fragment of his past, lost thirty years before.”

Rolf finds that past; the girl, Azucena, enables him to close the gap between his experiences and his feelings so he can confront it. Azucena is one of twenty thousand victims of a volcanic eruption that has wiped out an entire Latin American village. Arriving by helicopter, Rolf, a maker of television documentaries, finds himself first on the scene filming the volunteers trying to reach the girl, who is buried up to her neck in quicksandlike mud. Within minutes, the girl’s plight is broadcast throughout the world.

Rolf remains by her side. Throughout the night he tells stories of his adventures as a newsman to keep up her courage. Miles away, the narrator, Eva Luna, watches television and feels the pain of both Azucena and Rolf. She tries to get a pump sent to the site, but her efforts are futile. She even tries to help Rolf through her “force of mind.”

Later she watches the morning broadcast. Things have degenerated, but Rolf, now near exhaustion, still tries to keep the girl’s spirits up. More cameras and equipment arrive, and the worldwide focus on the young girl intensifies, making the scene so real to Eva that she envisions herself by their side using her love to help them endure the suffering.

On the second night, Rolf begins to talk of his life, speaking with an intensity like that of the volcano that has caused this tragedy. Beginning with the horrors of the concentration camps in Germany, he goes back even further to recall the abuse of his childhood by an evil father and his guilt over the fate of his retarded sister. As he finishes, he is in tears, ironically consoled by the dying Azucena.

In the morning, the president arrives and positions himself for the cameras beside the buried child. Rolf keeps his vigil throughout that day. Eva recalls the moment when, despite the president’s promises of help, the two give up hope. The strength of her love enables her to empathize with them as they accept the things that cannot be changed. On the night of the third day, with the cameras focused upon her, the girl dies.

Returning to Eva, Rolf is a changed person. He has set aside his cameras. Now able to see things clearly, he needs time to heal the wounds in himself just as the mud will cover the holes in the earth. The story ends with a thematic connection to the beginning sentence.

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