Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Argentina. South American country in which the prison cell holding Valentin and Molina is located. Argentina is a poor country swarming with crime and revolutionaries (like Valentin) who are trying to make the country a better place for all. Near the end of the novel, Molina and Valentin feel safer in the prison than in the outside world.

Tropical island

Tropical island. Valentin dreams of this unnamed island at the end of the novel. The island is an amalgam of the various film scenes that Molina has described. A woman appears to him in this dream, weaving webs out of her own body. This woman represents Molina and his storytelling abilities. His attraction toward this figure is emblematic of Molina and Valentin’s romantic feelings toward each other.


*France. Two films that Molina recalls take place in France. The first film, the apparently fictional Her Real Glory, is set in Paris in 1942. In the romantic setting of Paris, the two lovers of the film parallel Molina and Valentin. They too are opposites fighting against a common enemy—the Argentine prison system. Even though it is wartime, the scenes Molina describes are romanticized. The cabaret where Leni works, the German officer’s apartment, the final scene of the film in the German Pantheon—all are larger than life. The other film, about a race car driver, is more brutal, and Molina tells it...

(The entire section is 476 words.)

Historical Context

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Argentina: History
The process of colonization of Argentina by Spain began in the sixteenth century and developed through the...

(The entire section is 516 words.)

Literary Style

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

This novel is set in an unnamed Latin American country, but clearly refers to the political climate of Puig's native...

(The entire section is 760 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In a manner which has become a trademark of his style, Puig replaces third person narration in Kiss of the Spider Woman with narrative...

(The entire section is 242 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Kiss of the Spider Woman is set almost entirely in a prison cell in a Latin-American country and consists of a dialogue between two...

(The entire section is 217 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

  • Puig is a prominent twentieth-century Latin American writer. Learn more about another Latin American writer, such as Jorge Louis Borges,...

(The entire section is 341 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Puig collaborated with director Hector Babenco in a film version of Kiss of the Spider Woman, which premiered at the Cannes Film...

(The entire section is 228 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

  • Betrayed by Rita Hayworth (1968), Puig's first novel, is a loosely autobiographical account which focuses on a boy growing up...

(The entire section is 204 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Boccia, Michael. “Versions (Con-, In-, and Per-) in Manuel Puig’s and Hector Babenco’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Novel and Film.” Modern Fiction Studies 32, no. 3 (1986): 417-426. Discusses Puig’s fascination with film and the history of the novel’s development as it went from book to screen. Notes how the plot turns on an inversion of the relationship of the two men.

Echavarrén, Roberto. “Manuel Puig: Beyond Identity.” World Literature Today 65, no. 4 (1991): 581-585. Discusses the novel as Puig’s most radical effort at gay liberation. Surrounded by other fascinating articles celebrating the author’s life and works.

Rice-Sayre, Laura. “Domination and Desire: A Feminist-Materialist Reading of Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman.” In Textual Analysis: Some Readers Reading, edited by Mary Ann Caws. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1986. Demonstrates how the novel explores the connections among emotion, politics, and sexuality. Notes how Puig condemns society as based upon aggression and humiliation, and proposes a respect for difference.

Stavans, Ilan, ed. “Manuel Puig.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 11, no. 3 (1991): 159-259. This special edition of the journal, on the occasion of the novelist’s early death, contains interesting tributes from other writers and provocative articles that describe this novel as unique among prison literature.

Tittler, Jonathan. Manuel Puig. New York: Twayne, 1993. Provides an excellent account of the writing of the novel, summarizes its plot, and discusses critical responses to it. Situates the book among the novelist’s other works and describes it as his most complete, addressing his principal issues in the most satisfying way.

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Barcarisse, Pamela. Impossible Choices: The Implications of the Cultural References in the Novels of Manuel Puig....

(The entire section is 115 words.)