Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Valenzuela began to treat political themes several years before the publication of He Who Searches. As a result of her interest in the secret reality ensconced within people’s everyday lives, she began to link her vision of the cosmos, language, and masks to political reality. In He Who Searches, masks figure in the hidden identity of “she,” and in the multiple identities of the psychoanalyst. Valenzuela has been quoted as saying that the mask that hides in fact reveals. This is a notion shared by poststructuralist critics such as Pierre Macherey, who believes that the text both reveals and conceals, and that the absences are as significant as the presences.

As in El señor de Tacuru (1983; The Lizard’s Tail, 1983), a male character is shown to be blind to his own weaknesses and to treat women as sex objects. Valenzuela is ironic in her use of a semiotics professor, one who should be able to deconstruct social signifiers, as a main character. For all his psychonalytic categories, he is unable to detect the true identity of the waitress. Somehow, political commitment eludes psychonalysis’ focus on the individual self. Valenzuela uses feminism to ridicule the excesses of both psychoanalysis and Marxism.

Christian and Indian religious imagery is interwoven with Marxist and feminist references. The eating of Fatty is a grotesque enactment of the ritual of Holy Communion. A link is made between the...

(The entire section is 452 words.)