Discussion of Sandra Cisneros' "Woman Hollering Creek"

 Post your answer in the comments below. Make sure to include the number of the question you're answering and either cut and paste the question or answer in complete sentences so that we know which question you're answering.


A-10, B-11, C-12, D-13, E-1, F-2, G-3, H-4, I-5, J-6, K-7, L-8, M-9

If you have further thoughts or questions about the story, please feel to also post these below. 

13 Questions To Ask of Every Story: 

1.          What makes this story “literary”? 

 

2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

 

3.          Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

 

4.          Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

 

5.          Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

 

6.          Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

 

7.          Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

 

8.          Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

 

9.          Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?

 

10.      Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

 

11.      Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

 

12.      What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it? 


13.    How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

Comments

  1. 1. What makes this story “literary”?
    I think this story is "literary" because it gives commentary about how when we grow up, with think that adult life and marriage will be just like how it is in books, movies, and other popular forms of media when in reality, it's not like that 90% of the time. For example, a lot of teen shows will depict high school as a very fun and adventurous place when in reality, it's not like this in anyway.
    It also depicts what a real abusive relationship is like. The best example of this is when she got hit the first time, she didn't cry or shout like she thought she would in the telenovelas, she just stays their in shock and silence. Which is a way more realistic reaction to getting hit by someone you love than just immediately start crying or shouting.
    -Michael

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  2. 6. Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

    A: The writer shows character most notably through conversation between characters and internal dialogue. The main character, Cleofilas, is shown to be naive and caught in a fantasy through her conversations about telenovellas and the daydreams she has about married life. Cisneros also builds character through interactions. A prominent example of this is the laundromat scene. Not only are we shown Cleofilas' naivete, but we're also given a glimpse into the lives of a typical townsperson.

    Alec

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  3. 10. Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

    1) "She's always been so clever, that girl. Poor thing."
    This almost seems to encapsulate everything about her character. That Cleofilas is a book-smart woman, but not a street-smart woman. Someone who is naive but also someone who is knowledgeable but not about people. The strange way that people can be when in situations they may not be accustomed too fully. It sets the scene later with her more motherly instincts, and how she fixates her love on her son. That she can't trust her son so she puts it all in her child.

    2) "But what stung the most was the fact it was her book, a love story by Corin Tellado, what she loved most now that she lived in the U.S., without a television set, without the telenovelas"

    This one hits hard because it feels like this is the climax to the tension. It hurts the reader in the way that not even the physical pain can give her. It's what the symbolic pain is, that he hurt her with something she loved. It wasn't her son, but it was also something that had reminded her of home. Of where she was loved as who she was, not something she didn't really want at first.

    3) "I used to have a Pontiac Sunbird. But those cars are for viejas. Pussy Cars, Now this here is a real car."
    This one is especially important because it fits with the theme of reclamation. This idea that the main character is grappling with the fact she has just left her husband. And in coming from this along side the misogynistic group that she is used to dealing with, it provides a relief about it all.

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  4. 7. Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

    In the story Cleofilas likes telenovelas and the thought of getting married that she ends up with her husband. Her husband is abusive and she convinces herself to stay with him. It isn't until later does she start to think about going back home to her father. Though she still convinces herself to stay, even when she goes for a checkup it is the actions of Graciela that gets her out of the situation.
    It was interesting reading this story because the main character Cleofilas is a passive character, but I learned that inaction can still be considered an action that drives the story. A lot of the time I get this misconception that inactive/passive characters cannot move a story along, but in this case it works very well in telling this kind of story.

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  5. 12. What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?

    I believe what the reader is supposed to take away from this story is what it is like living as a Mexican woman in the United States. Everything is unfamiliar and different to her and she compares everything she experiences to a telenovela. This isn’t necessarily the standard experience but it does represent what it is like to be someone living in a new place. As writers, we can learn how to show different perspectives in order to present an idea. The format, being very conversational as if the reader is almost a part of the story is something that we, as writers, can pay attention to and learn from.

    -Bailey

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  6. The setting provides a cultural scaffolding for this story. While the abuse aspect is broadly relatable, the context of someone who is trapped both because of the terror of the abuse they’ve endured while being separated across a country border from their family (especially a border that’s such a point of discourse as the U.S./Mexico border) creates a much clearer image of some of the factors Cleófilas has to contend with in her escape. There’s the difficulty of getting across the border/getting to her family who is so far from her, and the concern of the talk of the neighbors in her old town if she comes back. We get the sense that her old community is close knit to the point of gossip, and that the town revolves around this word of mouth understanding of everything from the latest telenovela to the neighbor’s drama. Even the story is told from a literal third person—a conversation between two people living in Cleófilas’ old town. We get less of Seguin, Texas. Thematically, this makes sense. Cleófilas is confined to her house. Felice’s car is the only place where we see Cleófilas away from judgmental prying eyes and her husband. But she is not alone: Felice is there, even temporarily to transport her. It’s neutral ground, and it’s the first place that Cleófilas is able to feel hope again. The cultural context/setting also provides nuance: We see speculation on La Llorona, and the unspoken empathy Cleófilas feels for the woman who drowned her own children. La Llorona’s story transforms to mirror Cleófilas’. She turns into a woman in a terrible situation, one who drowned her children as a way to protect them from the brutality of their father.

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  7. 4. Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

    The "rich ground situation" of "Woman Hollering Creek" is one of inner turmoil. There isn't a lot of background details given about Cleófilas, but the ground situations was introduced in the line "She would not remember her father's parting words until later. I am your father, I will never abandon you." This is a subtle way of introducing the conflict that permeates the whole story. This simple statement from her father alludes to his possible dislike of her chosen husband, as well as what he expects he would do to his daughter in the future. It is from this ground that Cleófilas' pride grows to the point where she would never go back home no matter how dire her situation became. It is also the ground that the abuse stems from. And the abuse is not solely from her husband. It seems that it also comes from her father/upbringing. So we have the surface level abuse from her husband, and the "gut" level of abuse from her childhood. This is apparent in the final page where she is in shock at Felice's way of life. Cleófilas seemingly learns in this moment that independence is possible for a woman like her. A life without abuse is possible for a woman like her. The conflict throughout the whole story is created through life happenings (such as children, poverty, lack of relationships)

    - Elizabeth S.

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  8. 2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured

    This story is about 30 years old, and it has endured thanks to its themes. It deals with issues that sadly have to still be discussed today, misogyny and abuse. Cleofilas is truly marginalized. She is taken from her home to a country where she doesn't speak the language, where no one lists a finger to help women, in fact, the town is even mentioned to be designed for women to rely on men to find them around. What truly makes this story stand out is the ending. We see Cleofilas's situation get worse, and her get more desperate. She stays identifying with the figure the creek is named after who murdered her children. It would be easy for the story to go that route, but instead, she decides to break out. She chooses life and happiness. Then the name of the creek is turned around. Instead of a woman hollering out of desperation and lack of voice, she hollers with joy.

    -Logan O.

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  9. 11. Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

    This story is typical of the subject matter that she often delves into; the nuanced perspective unique to the culture she's experienced then transmitted on paper is reminiscent of her other work. Many of the themes that I picked up in this story, such as the normality of poverty, social injustice and Latino living is consistent with her other works such as Caramelo and Loose Woman. Sandra Cisneros has also done poetry and an adult picture book, but it seems that her most commonly created medium is short stories and essays, to which this example falls into that category. "Woman Hollering Creek" is also usually accompanied by "And Other Stories" in the title, as there are other stories included.

    Tomio

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  10. 3. Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

    Overall, the story has a vague sense of nostalgia, which I think lends to the fact that it was considered one of the best stories of its time. The plot is a similar storyline to other stories that are popular as well, and I think that helps the reader feel like this is an important story. It also tackles a big topic around coming to the United States from another country and having to adapt to the new world around you. The use of telenovelas shows a juxtaposition between what life is really like and what the shows portray life to be like. I think the way Cleofilas decides to not stay in the dangerous relationship shows that it's okay for women to choose their own happiness, and is a unlike some endings where it is a sad or harmful ending.
    -Taylor

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  11. 5. Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

    I think that the climax of the story is when Cleofila's husband throws her book at him, "He had thrown a book. Hers, from across the room. A hot welt across the cheek. She could forgive that, but what stung more was the fact it was her book." Cleofilas had imagined her life like the telanovelas but instead found a life of isolation and abuse from her husband. The TV she watched gave her the impression that life was going to be better for her when she got to her new husband and give her a better life style. But after all the abuse and having to wait on her alcoholic husband. After this scene of her husband throwing her book we watch as Cleofilas gather her stuff and prepare to leave her husband. Something about the fact that he used one of her items to hurt her changes something for Cleofilas and we watch as she prepares to get on a bus and leave before he gets home.

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  12. 8. Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

    The story is told with a third-person omniscient narrator, which inherently creates more distance between Cleofilas and readers. The narrator shares Cleofilas’s thoughts, as she does not verbalize her own troubles but tries to subdue her unhappiness in her marriage and convince herself that she should stay with her husband. Because Cleofila is more of a passive character, the story rarely drops into scene and dialogue isn’t the predominant tool used in this story to get Cleofila’s thoughts across to readers. An omniscient narrator, explaining Cleofila’s life to readers instead of Cleofila showing the readers herself, reflects the character’s passiveness, while also facilitating the story.

    -Sam W.

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