So Far from God Themes

The main themes in So Far from God are woman as daughter, wife, and mother; the exploitation of women; and religion.

  • Woman as daughter, wife, and mother: La Loca, Caridad, Esperanza, and Fe struggle to fulfill traditional women's roles, while Sofia comes to realize that she must live for herself rather than for her children or husband.
  • The exploitation of women: Exploitation is unavoidable for the women in the novel, whether by men, their neighbors, or their places of work.
  • Religion: The rules of organized, patriarchal religion cause suffering for the characters, while rejecting these constraints leads to freedom.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 497

So Far from God, a complex, multidimensional novel, blends elements of New Mexican mythology, Pueblo stories, and European Catholicism with home remedies, recipes, and Castillo’s bitingly sardonic humor to tell the story of a remarkable family. The subtext of the novel examines the brutal poverty and discrimination faced by hispanic and indigenous peoples in the Southwest.

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The novel is a probing critique of the racism, sexism, and materialism of American society in general and of social institutions such as the government, the church, and large corporations in particular. Woven into the narrative is a pointed examination of such contemporary issues as political oppression, economic exploitation, and environmental pollution. One of the novel’s main thematic focuses is environmental racism and the lack of protection afforded to minorities and the poor by the policies and agencies intended to safeguard them. The powerfully poetic chapter 15 juxtaposes brutal sociopolitical realities with the deep religious feelings of people making a Way of the Cross procession, presenting a catalog of social and environmental ills: minority families living below the poverty level, growing unemployment, deaths from toxic poisoning, radioactive dumping on reservations, birth defects and cancers linked to uranium contamination. The critique is not limited to sociopolitical issues, for the narrative also examines the problems of socially defined sex roles, sexuality, and women’s struggle for self-respect. Throughout the novel, women strive to define themselves outside restrictive, socially acceptable roles: Esperanza struggles to succeed in a typically male-dominated profession; Caridad struggles to reconcile her feelings for Esmeralda with her internalized expectations; Sofia struggles to keep her family together and her faith intact in the face of repeated challenges and tragedies.

The novel is also about interpersonal and family relationships; about loyalty, honesty, compassion, and love as the basis for successful relationships. A compulsive gambler who cannot control his addiction, Domingo nevertheless loves Sofia and his daughters; a victim of susto (shock) who cannot commit to a relationship, Tom clearly loves Fe; a nearly textbook-perfect machista (male chauvinist) who refuses to admit his feeling and vulnerabilities, Ruben finally realizes that he truly loves Esperanza. Although the men love the women, their relationships fail because they lack mutual respect, loyalty, and compassion. Yet, it is these very qualities that form the basis of the women’s relationships with one another. Even Fe, who is originally estranged from her family, grows to appreciate the importance of compassion and acceptance.

Castillo’s novel is also a powerful study of personal heroism, of honor, courage, and determination. So Far from God is a remarkable celebration of survival with dignity and joy. The power of the novel lies in the women’s ability not only to survive adversity but also to triumph over it. In the midst of death and tragedy, Castillo affirms life and the human will that sustains it. Refusing to give into despair, the women discover that within...

(The entire section contains 1404 words.)

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Chapter Summaries