Woman Hollering Creek

by Sandra Cisneros

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The significance of the title "Woman Hollering Creek" and how Sandra Cisneros' advice to "write about what makes you different" manifests in the story


The title "Woman Hollering Creek" signifies the protagonist's emotional journey and empowerment, symbolizing her struggles and eventual liberation. Sandra Cisneros' advice to "write about what makes you different" is evident in the story as it draws from her Mexican-American heritage, exploring themes of cultural identity, gender roles, and personal freedom through the unique experiences of her characters.

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Why is Sandra Cisneros' story titled "Woman Hollering Creek?"

The short story, “Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros derives its name from the creek that runs through the town that the main character, Cleofilas, moves to as a newlywed. Just as she is about to leave, her father promises he will always be there for her. This foreshadows what is to come. She leaves her father’s home in Mexico and crosses the bridge over the creek to be with her new husband Juan Pedro.

Unfortunately, her life is not what she anticipates, as her husband immediately turns abusive. Yet, Cleofilas suffers in silence about the abuse while her life plods on in a small house on the banks of the creek that her husband calls La Gritona. She often asks the townspeople about the origin of the creek’s name but it is unknown. After her first son arrives, she is drawn to the banks of the creek, which is a reference to a Mexican folk character, La Gritona, a woman who haunts a place, most often associated with water. She tries to find ways to punish men who treat women poorly.

The "Woman Hollering Creek" is symbolic of Cleofilas' life, the unknown that she experiences in her marriage. As the story closes, she is able to escape her married life. She is on her way back over the bridge to catch a bus back to Mexico, to her life with her father and brothers leaving her abusive husband behind. As she rides over the bridge with a strong, successful, single woman, the woman bellows, and Cleofilas releases a deep guttural, haunting laugh. She realizes that she is heading to a better life. The women literally holler as they cross the creek, leaving the unknown behind.

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Why is Sandra Cisneros' story titled "Woman Hollering Creek?"

Sandra Cisneros’ “Woman Holler Creek” centers on Cleófilas, a young mother suffering in an isolated household from living with her abusive, abrasive husband. Cleófilas at one point had romantic aspirations for how she pictured her married life, but the harsh reality of her crass husband and her hopeless situation leave her feeling defeated. She seeks solace from two women in her neighborhood, Dolores and Soledad, but they too have their own remorseful memories of men. The abuse continues and worsens. Cleófilas considers going back to her father, but then realizes the social ramifications that would await her. In the most interesting passage of the story, she relates to La Llorona, the weeping woman who drowned her own children:

La Llorona calling to her. She is sure of it. Cleófilas sets the baby's Donald Duck blanket on the grass. Listens. The day sky turning to night. The baby pulling up fistfuls of grass and laughing. La Llorona. Wonders if something as quiet as this drives a woman to the darkness under the trees. (51)

Finally, Cleófilas’ physician sets up a way for her to escape. He contacts a woman named Felice to extract Cleófilas from her desperate situation. Cleófilas is amazed at how strong and free Felice is, and has a moment that is evocative of Hélène Cixous’ critical thoughts pertaining to feminine laughter, which appear in her seminal essay “The Laugh of the Medusa”: “It was gurgling out of her own throat, a long ribbon of laughter, like water” (56). Cleófilas is empowered by the end of the tale after witnessing Felice as a prime example of feminine strength and independence.

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How does Sandra Cisneros' advice to "write about what makes you different" manifest in "Woman Hollering Creek"?

In many of the stories in this collection, women learn that the reality of male/female relationships is most often very different from what they have seen on television soap operas or read in romance novels. In "One Holy Night" for example, the young protagonist allows herself to be seduced by a man claiming he is descended from Mayan royalty. Instead, he turns out to be a serial killer.

In "Women Hollering Creek," the main character, Cleofilas, dreams of a marriage that will be a grand "passion," an all-consuming love relationship. But her marriage is not what she expected. Her husband is either indifferent to her or beats her; nothing she does seems to please him. He even brings another woman into their home for sex while she is giving birth to their son.

Her dreams crushed, Celofilas realizes her life is getting worse and worse rather than becoming a grand romantic story with a soul mate. Her point of difference or change arrives when she decides to escape her fate. A woman named Felice drives her over the border, yelling loudly as they cross the creek called Woman Hollering. This act startles and for a moment, scares, Celofilas. The yell, as well as the name of the creek, symbolize the risk and joy of women taking control of their own destiny. Many women from a traditional culture might have endured an abusive marriage, but Celofilas has chosen a different path.

For Cisneros in general, romantic love relationships in patriarchal cultures are a dream or myth that women must abandon to find their true destinies. They must dare to be different.

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