Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

As the niece of Chilean president Salvador Allende, who formed a representative government only to be assassinated in 1973 in a military coup that was immediately followed by a reign of terror, Isabel Allende has every reason to be preoccupied with the abuse of power. In Eva Luna, she consistently contrasts the heartlessness of wealthy people such as Eva’s abusive patrona with the kindness of social outcasts such as La Señora and Mimí. During much of the novel, her characters manage to keep their distance from the sources of power. The tyrannical ruler of the nameless country, the sadistic head of the secret police, and corrupt toadies such as the cabinet minister, however, are always present in the consciousness of her characters, and they become only too real to Mimí when he is thrown into prison for leading the Revolt of the Whores and to Eva herself when she is forced to flee because of her suspected involvement with the guerrillas.

Given her own experience with repression, it is amazing that Allende manages to avoid polemics in her works. She shows that even in the darkest of times, there is always the possibility of fulfillment through love. For Eva Luna, this comes only after she has come to terms with the shock of Zulema’s suicide. When, for her first time in years, she feels the pains of menstruation, Eva knows that now her body will once again permit her to function as a woman, thus making possible her total commitment...

(The entire section is 482 words.)