And of Clay Are We Created

by Isabel Allende

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How does Rolf's personality change toward the end of "And of Clay Are We Created"?

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In the beginning, Rolf approaches the story as he would any other. When he arrives on the scene by way of helicopter, he begins to deliver the story in his typical calm demeanor. The narrator shares that, "Fear seemed never to touch him."

However, the narrator also notes changes in...

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Rolf as the story progresses. When he attempts to place the rope around Azucena to remove her from the mud, she screams in pain. Rolf realizes she is trapped, and there is a break in his voice. While he maintains optimism for a time, the narrator again notices that Rolf is becoming exhausted and weary.

On the second night, Azucena "surrendered her fear" to Rolf, and the narrator observes that Rolf feels obligated to face his fears as well. Rolf shares stories of his past that he has repressed to avoid the pain that they invoke. He seems no longer able to hide behind his feats of bravery as a reporter and is instead overcome with emotion.

According to the narrator, "something fundamental had changed in him," and she recognizes the moment when Rolf accepts the girl's fate. Rolf returns to the narrator a changed man, and she waits patiently for him to heal.

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What are the changes in Rolf's personality towards the end of the story "And Of Clay Are We Created"?  

The short story "And of Clay Are We Created" by Isabel Allende takes place during a horrific disaster. A volcano erupts, and its heat melts snow on the side of the mountain, releasing tons of stones, clay, and water that slide down upon a village. A 13-year-old girl named Azucena is trapped waist-deep in the mud and cannot be extracted.

Rolf Carle is a news reporter who is called to the scene. The story is narrated by his lover, who does not accompany him. She describes some of it as it is seen through news cameras and some of it as told afterwards to her by Rolf. At the beginning of the story he is presented as a steadfast, self-confident, well-known person.

For years he had been a familiar figure in newscasts, reporting live at the scene of battles and catastrophes with awesome tenacity. Nothing could stop him, and I was always amazed at his equanimity in the face of danger and suffering; it seemed as if nothing could shake his fortitude or deter his curiosity.

All of this changes, however, when he is confronted with the plight of Azucena. At first he tries to rescue her, but when this proves to be impossible, he stays with her and tries to encourage her. Rolf remains with her for three days and two nights as she slowly weakens.

During this ordeal, his self-confidence and public image begin to erode. He wants to help her but is powerless; all he can do is keep her company. As he tries to assuage her fears, he confronts his own past and the hidden traumas from his childhood. His defenses break down, and he recalls his father's abuse, the death of his sister, and the horrors he witnessed during World War II. As he grieves for Azucena, he comes to grips with his own grief, the grief he had tried to forget that was buried in the past. He realizes that he has been using the self-confidence he feels at his job as a defense mechanism to cover up his fears. As the narrator writes:

I knew somehow that during the night his defenses had crumbled and he had given in to grief; finally he was vulnerable. The girl had touched a part of him that he himself had no access to, a part he had never shared with me. Rolf had wanted to console her, but it was Azucena who had given him consolation.

Rolf then has to accept the fact that Azucena cannot be saved, and he stays with her as she dies. Afterwards, when he returns to his lover, he is a permanently changed man.

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What are the changes in Rolf's personality towards the end of the story "And Of Clay Are We Created"?  

Rolf comes to recognize through Azucena's suffering that his identity as a famous television journalist has been a kind of disguise or sham, a way of hiding from his insecurities and troubled past. He remembers working in the camps during the war in Europe and the bodies stacked "like firewood." He remembers being beaten by his father, of cowering with his sister Katrina under the dining room table, his shame at abandoning her before her death.

Azucena's lack of fear gives him the courage to face these memories. He realizes that "all his exploits" as a reporter were just a way to keep from facing these painful memories. Azucena's final lament, that she had never been loved, wrings from Rolf a passionate declaration of love. He is no longer a reporter, a dispassionate recorder of facts, but a real human, who at the moment of Azucena's death finally becomes vulnerable.

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What are the changes in Rolf's personality towards the end of the story "And Of Clay Are We Created"?  

Rolf had always been the epitome of professionalism in his career as a TV journalist. It didn't matter what disasters he covered or how much human misery he reported on—he always somehow managed to remain cool, calm and collected.

But the tragic plight of the little girl Azucena, trapped in a deadly mudslide, has changed him forever, both as a man and as a journalist. The time he's spent with the doomed child has allowed him to get in touch with some of his deepest and most traumatic childhood memories. In turn, this has changed his whole personality.

He becomes obsessed with the terrible events that happened out there on that Colombian hillside in the full glare of the world's media. He sits for hour after hour by the window, staring intently at the mountains, wondering what more he could've done to save Azucena's life. It's this inability to move on with his life, this failure to separate his personal from his professional life, that is the most striking change in Rolf's personality in the wake of this appalling tragedy.

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What are the changes in Rolf's personality towards the end of the story "And Of Clay Are We Created"?  

In the beginning of the story, the narrator says of Rolf, "Fear seemed never to touch him." Rolf does his best to remain calm and courageous when he first begins to help Azucena. Rolf assures her in the beginning that everything will be fine. The narrator recalls a break in his voice when his first attempt to free Azucena from the mud is unsuccessful. However, he is again described as having a sense of "optimism." Rolf believes that once a pump arrives to drain the water, Azucena can be freed from the mud. After failed attempts to secure a pump, the narrator again describes a change in Rolf. She feels his "frustration, his impotence." Rolf eventually becomes so involved in the girl's plight that he forgets the camera. His worry and concern for Azucena force him to deal with terrible moments of his own past. Near the end of the story, Rolf has "given in to grief." The narrator waits for him to "complete the voyage" into himself at which time she hopes he will be as he once was.

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