The Development of Sofi

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1806

Ana Castillo's 1993 novel, So Far From God, explores the relationship between family members and their community in a traditional Hispanic community, making this community more accessible to non-Hispanic cultures. While critics like bell hooks and Theresa Delgadillo have argued that the home in this novel is a place where spirituality and selfhood get reworked and re-organized, the idea that Sofi rebels against the traditions of daughter, wife, and mother have generally been under-examined and have not been explored in the context of Sofi's "failed'' yet successful rebellion.

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Sofi's resistance to the patriarchal attitudes of her culture begins early in her life, but comes as a flashback in the novel. Sofi attends her cousin's coming-out party and meets Domingo. He is universally disliked by her middle-class Hispanic family, but Sofi is in love. She challenges the rules and her family by marrying him over her family's and her community's objections. Even the local priest refuses to perform the ceremony. From a traditional feminist point of view, Sofi's rebellion is a powerful act of independence. However, Castillo seems to cast it in a much more negative light. From the very beginning of the novel, Castillo paints Domingo as a loser, a gambler, and a player. In the flashback episode, Domingo is young and suave and just a bit dangerous. By rebelling against the social order, Sofi is opening herself up to a dangerous man. While Castillo seems to be suggesting that women should remain in the traditional role as dutiful daughters who always do what Daddy says, the subtext of the novel makes it clear that it is Sofi's family's fault that she ends up with Domingo. Castillo is critiquing Hispanic (and American) culture by suggesting that if Sofi's family had not been so dead-set against Domingo, she would not have fallen so hard for him and ruined her life.

Sofi herself realizes what she has given up after her daughter Caridad's death. She realizes that her duty to her parents should not supersede her duty to herself, but at the same time, her parents failed in their duty to her by making life with Domingo so attractive. These same ideas about family duty are illustrated in the ways Sofi's daughters behave as daughters. Unlike their mother, Esperanza, Caridad, Fe, and La Loca are free to do what they want with their lives, marry whomever they please, find their own career paths, and do everything that Sofi did not. Yet here, too, Castillo shifts the terms of the feminist debate by making the outcomes of these daughters' actions just as painful and ultimately unsuccessful as Sofi's own choices.

Sofi's behavior as a wife again goes against the traditional role of Hispanic wife and therefore the definition of a "good'' Hispanic woman. For most of her married life, Sofi did follow the traditional path. She married Domingo instead of just sleeping with him; she took care of the house and her husband, and even welcomed him back after a fifteen-year absence. In feminist terms, Sofi is a victim of patriarchal rage because she does not do anything for herself. She allows Domingo to leave and then accepts him back with no questions asked. However, she does start to stand up for herself when Domingo loses the house and butcher shop in a card game. Sofi makes the decision to divorce her husband. While divorce is common in American culture and many Hispanic women do divorce every year, the idea of divorce is not culturally accepted in Chicana/o culture. Due in part to the overwhelming influence of Catholicism, divorce is a fate to be avoided at all costs. Sofi displays her understanding of this by having not divorced Domingo when he left her the first time. However, her reason for not divorcing Domingo had nothing to do with any love she had for him; it was merely to keep up...

(The entire section contains 19322 words.)

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