The representation of women in the novel serves as a significant contribution to the description of social context, in which Juan and Marcela tried to live their way through humiliation and struggle. Indeed, the novel itself presents women through the prism of hearthside and sanity among alien and surreal existence. For example, when forced to go to the mita, Marcela does not reflect on her future, as she is rather preoccupied with her husband’s well-being once he is left on his own. Thus, it may be noticed throughout the novel that men tend to categorize women as mysterious creatures they should mate rather than solid and independent, and mentally strong human beings. Another good example is one of the novel’s characters, Don Gaspar, refers to women as witches, implying that “the best of it is that we men, all of us, let ourselves be bewitched by them, eyes and ears” (Matto de Turner, 1904, p. 168). Thus, instead of being bewildered by women’s minds, he appeals to the man’s feminine beauty and attribution.
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However, despite the presence of such women’s categorization, the novel obtains a feminist side narrated by the story of Marcela. When seeking help from Lucia Marin, a woman who may not fully realize the scopes of her experience, Marcela symbolizes the women’s community’s strength in pursuit of respect and recognition. Another example of solidarity manifestation is Lucia’s decision to raise Marcela’s children after the fatal injury. The identification of gender roles, where women are responsible for emotional support and men are trying to do their best in terms of provision, serves as a vivid representation of the survival of the indigenous.
Matto de Turner, C. (1904). Birds without a nest: A story of Indian life and priestly oppression in Peru. Transl. by J. G. H. Charles J. Thynne.