Gabriela Mistral Analysis

Other literary forms

(World Poets and Poetry)

Although the poems published in the three main collections of Gabriela Mistral (mee-STROL) are the principal source for her recognition, she was active until her death as a contributor of prose to newspapers and journals throughout Latin America. She also wrote for newspapers whenever she was abroad, and her translated articles appeared frequently in the local press. The quality of this extensive and continuous journalistic effort is not consistent, though Mistral’s prose style has been recognized for its personal accent and spontaneity. Her articles were extremely varied in theme. Much of what she wrote supported principles espoused in her poetry. Though less introspective, the prose, like the poetry, relates closely to the author’s life and derives from episodes that left a profound mark on her. It is combative, direct, and abrupt while revealing her sincerity and ceaseless search for truth and justice.


(World Poets and Poetry)

ph_0111228259-Mistral.jpg Gabriela Mistral Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Latin America’s most honored woman poet, Gabriela Mistral was awarded the 1945 Nobel Prize in Literature. The first Latin American writer to be so honored, she was selected as the most characteristic voice of a rich literature that had until then been denied that coveted award. The intrinsic merits of her work, described as lyricism inspired by vigorous emotion, were representative of the idealism of the Hispanic American world.

Mistral’s popularity was keen throughout her adult life, during which she received the National Award for Chilean Literature and honorary doctorates from the University of Florence, the University of Chile, the University of California, and Columbia University.

Neither a disciple of Rubén Darío nor a contributor to the poetic revolution of the vanguard movements (though there are elements of both in her work), Mistral maintained independence from literary groups, preferring to consider herself an outsider. Nevertheless, her personal effort was a ceaseless labor toward unity, in which she pressed her genius into the service of brotherhood among nations, responsibility in professional activity, regard for future generations, appreciation for native American culture, effective education, love for the weak and oppressed, and a yearning for social justice.

All these endeavors are rooted in the principal sentiment of Mistral’s poetry—her unsatisfied desire for motherhood. This emotion is in Mistral both a feminine instinct and a religious yearning for fulfillment. She elevates her great feminine anguish to the heights of art; this is her originality.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gabriela Mistral wrote three sonnets about the death of her lover. Why would she use such an exacting form on a subject of great emotional significance to her?

Examine the tone of “We Were All to Be Queens.” How should the reader take these accounts of unfulfilled dreams?

What experiences of her life made Mistral particularly sensitive to the plight of the exile?

Determine why there was no tradition of children’s literature in Latin America before Mistral’s Ternura.

What literary models did Mistral have for her Poema de Chile?


(World Poets and Poetry)

Arce de Vázquez, Margot. Gabriela Mistral: The Poet and Her Work. Translated by Helene Masslo Anderson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990. Biography and critical study of Mistral and her work. Includes bibliographical references.

Castleman, William J. Beauty and the Mission of the Teacher: The Life of Gabriela Mistral of Chile, Teacher, Poetess, Friend of the Helpless, Nobel Laureate. Smithtown, N.Y.: Exposition Press, 1982. A biography of Mistral and her life as a teacher, poet, and diplomat. Includes a bibliography of Mistral’s writing.

Horan, Elizabeth. Gabriela Mistral: An Artist and Her People. Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1994. This biography of Mistral examines her life in Chile and the effect that the social conditions in her native land had on her poetry.

Marchant, Elizabeth. Critical Acts: Latin American Women and Cultural Criticism. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999. This refreshing reevaluation of Latin American women writers during the first half of the twentieth century recognizes their overlooked contributions to the public sphere. The critic reconsiders some representative poems, focusing on the dichotomy between Mistral’s theories and practices and the female intellectual’s alienation from the public sphere. Although Mistral refused a traditional societal role for herself, she advocated it for her readership.

Peña, Karen. Poetry and the Realm of the Public Intellectual: The Alternative Destinies of Gabriela Mistral, Cecília Meireles, and Rosario Castellanos. Leeds, England: Legenda, 2007. The author compares and contrasts the poetic works of three Latin American women writers, including Mistral.