The Castro Movement
Although the Castro Movement did not occur until seventy years after the setting of Silent Wing, José Raúl Bernardo was living in Havana, Cuba and attending university during one of that country's most turbulent times. During the late 1950s Fidel Castro fought against overwhelming odds to oust the dictator Batista who had been in power since the 1930s. During 1957 and 1958 Castro gained more support from the public and in January 1959 defeated Batista and took Santiago. It was during this upheaval that Bernardo was completing his degree in music. Perhaps one might argue that a writer is the sum of his or her experiences. Significant political events can impact our lives and make lasting impressions.
The Life of Jose Marti
Considered one of the greatest writers of the Hispanic world, Marti devoted his life's work to ending Spanish rule of his homeland Cuba. Bernardo in his historical novel Silent Wing offers fictionalized glimpses of the private struggles of Marti. Born in Havana in 1853, he was exiled to Spain at the age of seventeen. While there he published a pamphlet exposing the horror of imprisonment at a political figure in Cuba, something he experienced himself. Bernardo incorporates Marti's life experiences in the text of his novel. By 1895 he was actively leading opposition efforts to overthrow Spanish rule. He died during one of the first battles of that war, another historical item that is included in the novel.
Point of View
The point of view in Silent Wing is that of third-person omniscient, the all-knowing narrator. The reader is given information concerning the innermost workings of the heart. The reader learns not only of Julian's journey to Guatemala but of his first stirring impressions of Guatemala City. The use of present tense ‘‘calls, sees, talks,’’ invites intimacy. It is as if the reader is listening to a close friend relating the story. When Julian approaches Guatemala City, he sees strange objects breaking out of the oppressive heat of the jungle and encounters what seems to be a vision: "The valley is shrouded by a thick, pale gray mist that hovers over it, moving very languidly. . .piercing through that mist there appear to be dozens of tall, white, pointing spires, almost obelisks. Julian shakes his head.’’ Traveling nearer, he sees more of the city "lying on a high plateau, up in the mountains, close to the clouds; a magnificently beautiful place where spring is said to be perennial." Through the omniscient narrator, the reader learns what is thought and felt and rarely spoken.
Foreshadowing is a detail in a story that hints at the eventual outcome of events and helps create mood or sustain a tone. In the novel Julian has a moment of intense clarity after meeting with Professor Saavedra. He thinks of the Cuban cigar that Saavedra offered and equates it with the struggle for freedom. Julian is thinking he does not want to sit behind a desk and have a comfortable life. The narrator informs the reader of Julian's thoughts: "If it is true that only the blood of martyrs feeds dreams, well then, Lord, please, let me feed dreams, even if that means that I'd have to become a martyr myself." Several years later, in the midst of one of the first battles for Cuban independence Julian will be killed. Shortly after this scene, Julian joins a celebration and is asked by an organ grinder whether he wishes to have a ‘‘bit of wisdom.’’ The first message is, "When honor and truth are at odds, let truth prevail,’’ and the second is ‘‘Don't give up hope. The girl you've been waiting for is just around the corner.’’ Both pieces of advice apply to Julian's life yet it is the next event that serves as another foreshadowing. Julian tucks the notes inside his pocket but one falls to the ground, the note that speaks of honor and truth: ‘‘But as he does, the first piece of paper. . .the pale cream one, falls out of his pocket without him realizing it. . .that tiny...
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