Woman Hollering Creek Summary
by Sandra Cisneros

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Woman Hollering Creek Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In ldquo;Woman Hollering Creek,” Cisneros describes the experiences of an ideal Mexican wife, Cleófilas. Having grown up with her father, six brothers, and no mother, Cleófilas learns how to be a woman by watching telenovelas on television. She learns to expect that passion will fill her life. This passion will be the great love of her life, which will give it direction and meaning, so that “one does whatever one can, must do, at whatever the cost.” This, she believes, is how life should be, “because to suffer for love is good. The pain all sweet somehow. In the end.” To be complete as a woman, she need only wait for her lover to appear and carry her away into “happy ever after.”

Her husband, Juan, carries her away from Mexico to Seguin, Texas, where she finds no community or family to support her, living in a comparatively isolated home and without independent means of transportation. Aware of the role of a good wife, she learns how to fit gracefully in with Juan’s life. She cares for his house and bears a son, Juan Pedrito. Both she and Juan, however, are foreigners in Seguin. His work is menial and does not pay well enough for the minimum standard of life in Texas. By the time she is pregnant with their second child, he has taken to beating her regularly, partly as a way of dealing with his frustration and powerlessness.

As their relationship deteriorates, Cleófilas comes to realize that this marriage does not contain the passion she learned about in the telenovelas. She thinks about her situation while sitting next to Woman Hollering Creek, her baby in her lap; she sometimes wonders whether the woman after whom the creek is named cries out in pain or in rage. She finally realizes that she can do nothing herself to make the marriage right, and she wonders whether the arroyo was named after La Llorona, the weeping woman who drowned her own children, in the stories of her childhood.

Finally, she returns to her father, disillusioned but still the passive woman depending upon men to care for her. To make her escape, she gets help from a woman who provides a glimpse of another way to live. Felice gives her a ride in her truck on the first part of her escape. That Felice lives alone, takes care of herself, and owns a truck—in short, that she lives much as a man does in Cleófilas’s experience—astonishes Cleófilas. She continues to think about Felice long after her return to Mexico, and she tells others about this woman who, when they crossed the creek upon leaving Seguin, hollered like Tarzan: “It was a gurgling out of her own throat, a long ribbon of laughter, like water.”


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Woman Hollering Creek” is the powerful narration of the destruction of one woman’s dreams told through her consciousness from the days just before her ill-fated marriage to Juan Pedro until the day she escapes his cheating, bullying behavior to return to Mexico. The primary action takes place in Seguin, Texas, a town of nasty gossips, dust, and despair, where Cleófilas gradually learns that the community life she cherished before moving north no longer exists. This town is built so that wives have to depend on husbands for a ride or stay home. There is nothing a woman can walk to: no supportive church, no leafy town square, and no friendly shops.

The story begins in Mexico, the day Don Serafin gives Juan permission to marry his daughter, Cleófilas, and take her to the “other side,” across the border. In the emotion of parting, he reassures her that as her father he will never abandon her, a remark that she later remembers for its comfort and hope. The wedding is what Cleófilas has been waiting for her entire life. Through watching films and soap operas, she has learned to desire a fairy-tale existence, the kind she is sure she will achieve with the love of her life, Juan Pedro. Once they settle in Seguin, Cleófilas finds herself drawn to the lovely creek running behind the house. No one knows why the creek is called La...

(The entire section is 1,833 words.)