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I. Allende’s and J. Onetti’s Latin Short Stories Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Nov 21st, 2021


All genres of imaginative literature are different, and each is unique, impressive, and interesting in its way. However, the genre of the short story has claimed our special attention. Its zest is in the following: the writers manage to create the description of global and eternal problems using just several pages. Impressive short stories are unquestionable proof of the author’s talent. Latin America gave birth to many outstanding writers, who have made an important and unique impact on the development of world literature. Their short stories are true masterpieces in the treasury of world literature.

Juan Carlos Onetti

Juan Carlos Onetti is one of the remarkable Latin American writers, who was awarded a Miguel de Cervantes Prize, “the most prestigious in the Spanish language” (Echevarría 261). Though his best-known novel is “The Shipyard”, his short story “The Image of Misfortune” is perfect proof of the author’s literary talent. The gloomy, sad, and unhappy motives run through the short story, symbolizing its affinity with the gloomy prose of Dostoyevsky (Echevarría 261).

The thing that impressed me most of all about the short story is the overall impression of doom and guilt, which is created with the help of the details, that may seem unimportant at first glance. The title of the story reflects its content: the story is the perfect depiction of the image of misfortune. It may be read between the lines that the narrator, who is the protagonist of the story, suffers terribly, as he charges himself with the death of his brother. The atmosphere of the story is the reflection of his inner world; “total darkness” is the perfect description of it (Echevarría 263).

“The Image of Misfortune” masterfully shows that there are invisible connections between people, which tie their souls and hearts together in the most unpredictable ways: “the girl had freed me from Julian and many other failures… there was no doubt that I … needed her and would continue to need her” (Echevarría 275). The protagonist is too weak to cope with the guilt that is eating his soul. Besides, the author stresses several times that names of characters are not important for him: “we parted without telling each other our names” (Echevarría 275). Thus, the writer wanted to prove the importance of the problems he depicts in the story, and he stresses their universal character.

Isabel Allende

The second short story under analysis is “Two Words” by Isabel Allende. For me, the reading of the story has given me ultimate pleasure. Though the story draws the reader’s attention to eternal philosophic problems of happiness and desire for power, it is presented in rather simple, but impressive form, which reminds me of a parable or a fairy-tale.

The characters of the story have personal names: Belisa Crepusculario, El Mulato, but then they represent generalized images of people, who are characterized by central features of character: mercy, wisdom, desire for power. The thesis stated by the author may be defined as follows: words may “build and ruin lives”; the power of a word may be stronger than the power of a sword.

In contrast to the previous story, “Two Words” creates an optimistic atmosphere and maybe really inspiring. Isabel Allende wants to prove to the readers that money and power should not be the only values in people’s lives. She wants to make us believe, that people are the greatest treasure and their communication, their positive energy, which is transferred from one person to another, may work miracles.

The protagonist of the short story, Belisa Crepusculario, is the most interesting element of the story for me. Though the author does not describe her appearance, we see the image of the woman. She is intelligent, though she had never been educated, she is strong because she travels around the world; she is unselfish and altruistic because her main goal is to help people. Finally, Belisa is wise, because she manages to find a way, how to stop the tyrant and turns him into a sensitive and kind person (Allende 20).

What is more, the finale of the story is also original. The reader is eager to get to know the two magic words, which can completely change the life of a person. However, the author never tells them, leaving it to us to guess them. For every person, they may be different, and this is one more proof, that words can work miracles.

The third story is “Toad’s Mouth” by the same author. As for me, this story is rather controversial, and my feelings on reading it are confused. I could hardly imagine that “Two Words” and “Toad’s Mouth” were written by the same author because the style of writing is different. However, as for me, this proves that the author is an endowed writer if her works are not each other’s reflections.

Zapata and Peden state that the story “is written with overt and slightly vulgar humor that must have provoked more than one moralistic objection” (75). It is known that the story was “banned in Mormon schools, and heads the blacklist of many Christian fundamentalists” (75). A surprising fact is that Allende’s mother disapproved of it very much and the author was almost forced to exclude the story from the book.

In my opinion, the story is aimed at the mature adult public, as it may be understood improperly by an unprepared audience. The protagonist of the book, Hermelinda, a whore, is a unique character, as she belongs to those layers of society, who are considered taboo. The author has made a challenge to society by the choice of the protagonist. The game called “Toad’s Mouth” is also symbolic, and it represents the process of selling and buying love directly. Maybe, because of this straightforwardness and sarcasm, the story is so impressive, but repulsive at the same time.


Concluding, let us state that using these three stories as illustrative material, we have managed to show that modern Latin American literature is multidimensional, and the writers have made a considerable contribution to world literature. Each story is a perfect example of the great talent of the authors and the depth of the topics presented in the short stories.

Works Cited

Allende, Isabel. The Stories of Eva Luna. NY: Bantam, 1992.

Correas Zapata, Celia. Isabel Allende: Life and Spirits. Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. Houston, TX: Arte Publico, 2002.

Echevarría, Roberto Gonzalez. The Oxford Book of Latin American Short Stories. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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