Woman Hollering Creek

by Sandra Cisneros

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What role does La Gritona play in "Woman Hollering Creek" and how does its symbolism change?

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The creek is an important character through the course of this story. For one thing, Woman Hollering Creek represents the borders for Cleofilas. On one side of the creek is her childhood home; on the other side is the new life which turned out to be nothing like she thought it would be. Cleofilas's reality is determined by which side of the creek she is on.

The symbolism of the creek changes dramatically throughout the story. In the beginning, it is mysterious but romantic. Crossing the creek, for Cleofilas, is crossing to new opportunity. She is confused by the negative connotation of the name—she sees the creek as something beautiful and hopeful. This continues a bit throughout the story, as she uses lyrical phrases such as "the moon floating pearly over the arroyo" to describe it.

However, as Cleofilas becomes more and more disillusioned with her new life, the river becomes something more menacing. She starts to think of the naming of the creek. Is the woman hollering in pain, or in sadness, or in anger?

Cleofilas compares the creek to La Llorona, a woman who is said to have drowned her kids and whose ghost is said to wander at night crying. For Cleofilas in her new life, the creek must be crying. Nothing in her life is what she expected; she is abused and mistreated, and she no longer can see the beauty she once saw in the river.

Luckily, she is able to cross the river a second time and return to her childhood home. In this second crossing, she is finally allowed to be hopeful once more. This begins to change her perception of the creek, but what really changes her opinion is the other the response of the other woman, Felice. Felice hollers a joyful, triumphant sound as she crosses the river. She is free in a way Cleofilas has never known, and suddenly, Cleofilas discovers a new reason why a woman might holler—not out of pain, fear, anger, or sadness, but out of victory.

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In "Woman Hollering Creek," La Gritona evolves from a beautiful, romantic creek into a symbol of strength and the overcoming of obstacles. When Cleofilas crosses it for the first time, she is perplexed by its name.

La Gritona. Such a funny name for such a lovely arroyo. But that's what they called the creek that ran behind her house.

No one seems to know how the stream got its name, "Woman Hollering," and Trini the laundromat attendant resents Cleofilas for asking.

Cleofilas, experiencing regular domestic abuse and beginning to suspect her husband of infidelity, becomes disillusioned with her new life in America. Her marriage is nothing like the telenovelas she grew up watching. Life has lost its luster, and Cleofilas has a baby on the way.

While at the doctor's office, Cleofilas meets a nurse who recognizes the signs of abuse. At the nurse's insistence, Cleofilas makes plans to run away. The nurse enlists her friend, Felice, to give Cleofilas a ride.

Once again, Cleofilas journeys over La Gritona, now a changed woman. She traveled over it the first time as a new bride, with an idealized view of romance and matrimony. Now, she is disillusioned but strong, strong enough to flee from her abuser.

Cleofilas's character development influences her perspective on La Gritona. After Felice yells while crossing the river, Cleofilas thinks about Felice's response. She thinks Felice is crazy, but she is also impressed with Felice's bold independence. Continuing her own journey to independence, Felice laughs. At first, La Gritona, like everything else in Cleofilas's new life, simply seems romantic. Through Cleofilas's marriage and subsequent disillusionment, however, the stream evolves into a new symbol. La Gritona stands for freedom, and that is reason to laugh.

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