Themes

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1182

Patriarchy One of Allende's main themes is that of patriarchy, which makes reference to a society in which men make all the rules, thus having authority over women and children. She sets this up in the first part of the story by demonstrating Jeremy's control of the Sommers household. She...

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Patriarchy
One of Allende's main themes is that of patriarchy, which makes reference to a society in which men make all the rules, thus having authority over women and children. She sets this up in the first part of the story by demonstrating Jeremy's control of the Sommers household. She also emphasizes it with the creation of Agustín del Valle and his ruthless behavior toward the people who work for him and toward his daughter, Pauline, who tries to defy him. Allende does this with a purpose. In both cases, with Jeremy and Agustín, the women eventually get their way. No matter how strict the men are, the women do what they have to do in order to pursue their own interests. In parts two and three, Eliza continues to play out the rebellion against patriarchy as she searches for her identity and her independence. In order to do so, she dons men's clothing, stepping into their world and, in essence, competing with them. She is successful in doing so but realizes that she is not a man and is tired of playing the part. When she returns to her feminine self, she gains confidence and independence.

Love
There are many different types of love expressed in this novel. Several of them are paired with a contrasting form to better define each of them. For instance, Rose's love of Eliza is much different from Mama Fresia's love. Rose loves Eliza as a young child might love a doll. She likes to dress her up and show her off. She also uses Eliza in a way to improve on her own life—to discipline Eliza so she will not make the same mistakes that Rose made growing up. Mama Fresia, on the other hand, loves Eliza for herself. She wants to help mold her so that Eliza will grow up strong.

Eliza is also torn between two loves. First, there is Joaquín, whom she falls in love with upon first sight and with whom she shares her first sexual relationship. She follows him to California because of her feelings for him but realizes, in the process, that she hardly even knows him. As she matures and becomes more independent, she realizes that her strong friendship to Tao is a deeper kind of love and, upon Joaquín's death, she comments that she is free (supposedly free of her fixation on Joaquín).

Tao Chi'en also has an early love, with his wife Lin. Although the love between them appears more true than the feelings shared between Eliza and Joaquín, Tao chooses his wife because of the small size of her feet. Her feet were bound in childhood, so they would not grow to adult size, an ancient Chinese practice. Tao found out too late that this practice actually compromised his wife's health. Because of her crippled feet, Lin was more dependent on Tao. Later, Tao realizes that he enjoyed the mature relationship with Eliza, a woman who learned to fend for herself.

Rose also has two different kinds of love. She falls madly in love with Karl Bretzner. Their love was passionate but very temporary, because Bretzner was a married man. However, Rose was so consumed with this passion that she required no more love in her life, at least not from a man. She has many other suitors, but they are all rather comical in comparison to her affair with Bretzner. Jacob Todd, for instance, loves Rose for no discernible reason; and the young suitor Michael Steward is a fool whose affections Rose acknowledges with horror.

Medicine
Medicine is a topic that runs throughout the novel, but it is medicine as seen through different cultures. Mama Fresia comes from a tribe indigenous to Chile. She heals Eliza with concoctions and spells. Tao learned traditional Chinese medicine and treats his patients with a combination of herbs, plants, and acupuncture. He befriends Ebanizer Hobbs, a Western-taught physician who knows more about exploratory surgery than about natural healing. Tao would like to learn more about Western techniques from Hobbs in order to broaden his skills and thus the two world views about medicine merge.

Sources
Allende, Isabel, Daughter of Fortune, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1999.

Clark, Alex, "Rags from Riches," in Guardian, November 13, 1999.

Cruz, Jacqueline, Jacqueline Mitchell, Silvia Pellarolo, and Javier Rangel, "A Sniper between Cultures," in Conversations with Isabel Allende, University of Texas Press, 1999, p. 205.

Donaldson, Peter, "Novel of the Week: Daughter of Fortune," in New Statesman, December 13, 1999, p. 57.

Erro-Peralta, Nora, "Isabel Allende," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 145, Modern Latin-American Fiction Writers, Second Series, Gale Research, 1994, pp. 33-41.

Granados, Esperanza, Isabel Allende: A Critical Study of Her Work, Pennsylvania State University, 1991, p. iv.

Hart, Patricia, "Magic Feminism in Isabel Allende's The Stories of Eva Luna," in Multicultural Literatures through Feminist/Poststructuralist Lenses, University of Tennessee Press, 1993, pp. 103-36.

----, Narrative Magic in the Fiction of Isabel Allende, Associated University Presses, 1989, pp. 31, 177.

Kakutani, Michiko, "Allende Quits Magical Realism for a Bodice-Ripper Romance," in Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 6, 1999, section C, p. 2.

Lopez, Ruth, "Left on a Genteel Doorstep," in New York Times Book Review, October 24, 1999, pp. 7, 17.

Manguel, Alberto, "A Sacred Journey Inward," in Conversations with Isabel Allende, University of Texas Press, 1999, pp. 274-75.

McClennen, Sophia A., Review of Daughter of Fortune, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 20, No. 2, Summer 2000, pp. 184-85.

Sheppard, R. Z., "Footnotes No Longer," in Time, Vol. 154, No. 20, November 15, 1999, p. 108.

Further Reading
Bloom, Harold, ed., Isabel Allende, Chelsea House Publishers, 2002.
This book is a new collection of essays devoted to the writings of Isabel Allende, including an essay titled "The Struggle for Space: Feminism and Freedom" by Ronie-Richelle Garcia-Johnson.

Boessenecker, John, Gold Dust and Gunsmoke: Tales of Gold Rush Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes, John Wiley & Sons, 1999.
Although Hollywood has created an image of the Wild West as encompassing all the western territories, Boessenecker demonstrates that most of the notorious characters were concentrated in the California gold rush areas, writing this fact-based account to put faces and dates on the real people who fought hard (and not always fairly) for a chance to strike it rich. This is a well-written and intriguing book.

Kaufman, Edy, Crisis in Allende's Chile: New Perspectives, Praeger Publishers, 1988.
This book was written a decade after the overthrow of Salvador Allende and offers another view of the official and unofficial involvement of the U.S. government in Chile's politics. It was written by the executive director of the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace.

Levy, JoAnn, Daughter of Joy: A Novel of Gold Rush California, Forge, 1998.
Based on the life of prostitute Ah Toy, Levy's book contains an interesting fictional account of how the Chinese immigrant made her money in San Francisco's red light district. Ah Toy referred to those in her profession as "daughters of joy."

Rojas, Sonia Riquelme, and Edna Aguirre Rehbein, eds., Critical Approaches to Isabel Allende's Novels, P. Lang, 1991.
This is a collection of critical essays and interpretations of Allende's fictional works. It is written in both Spanish and English and is part of American University's study series on Latin-American literature.

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