Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Throughout her works, Valenzuela uses feminism and Marxism to interrogate each other. Her familiarity with French poststructuralism is seen in her reference to the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. She quotes him: “The signifier [is] destined to designate the overall effects of the signified.”

Valenzuela’s treatment of characters suggests that she shares with Lacan the notion of the alienated self. Lacan’s “mirror phase,” in which the child discovers a corporeal unity or form through his or her perception of another human being, accounts for the fascination with the other’s image as an anticipation of identification with this image. Considering He Who Searches, it can be said that the psychoanalyst searches for himself through his image of his patient. The psychoanalyst is already an adult, but Valenzuela may be somewhat ironic in her treatment of this and other psychoanalytic categories. At a deeper level, she subscribes to the Hegelian and Marxist view that the self cannot be understood except in relation to the other, and she applies this view to the Argentine nation. The family from the country, waiting in line in the political uprising, explains that its members need to be heard and that the people in the city must listen to them. This is a reference to a fundamental division in Argentine society between the urban and the rural populations.

Valenzuela’s work cannot be understood apart from the political,...

(The entire section is 475 words.)