Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Focusing on Mexican American women, The Wedding enlarges the themes of Ponce’s volume of short stories Taking Control (1987). Ironic narratives of sometimes unrecognized failure, these stories depict women attempting to live out their own standards in relation to their Latino culture. Ponce participates in the vigor of Latina fiction writing in the late 1980’s, years when Latina writers reflected on their identity in relation to the United States’ literary mainstream, to mainstream feminism, and to their own heritage.

Ponce’s straightforward narrative, focusing on the characters’ actions and conscious lives, distinguishes her method from the dream-sequence and stream-of-consciousness techniques of Latina authors writing in English such as Lucha Corpi in Delia’s Song (1989) and Cristina Garcia in Dreaming in Cuban (1992). Like a number of Latina writers, Ponce takes risks with the English language. Using Spanish phonetic spellings for words in conversations, Ponce veils meaning momentarily and thus reveals the characters’ cultural difference. Though she narrates with sometimes broad comicality in The Wedding, Ponce’s use of humor links her with an aspect of Latina writing that is beginning to receive critical attention.

The Wedding treats the special bicultural reality of Latina women at the same time that it connects with the feminist mainstream. An obvious but important focus of the novel is female subjectivity (woman as the subject of events and of her own life).

The novel also expresses the feminist interest in perceptions of the female body. Constantly evoking the body, its dampness, its smells, and its visceral reactions, Ponce “writes the body.” The young women’s inscribing their faces and nails with vivid 1950’s cosmetics proclaims their sexuality, the color they wish their lives to have, and their outsider status. In her 1990 essay “The Color Red,” Ponce observed that in the 1950’s, lower-class Mexican Americans wore bright colors that Mexican Americans wanting an “American” look regarded as too vivid.

Through constant references to Blanca’s uncomfortable flesh, the novel emphasizes the basic physical level of reality that women in the community occupy. In its silences, the novel also encompasses the concept of women’s secret knowledge—about Blanca’s intimacy with Cricket, her pregnancy, and her most private emotions.