Kiss of the Spider Woman: Chapter Notes - Chapter 9
· Molina brings in food and looks happy to falsely indicate to Valentin that he was just visited by his mother. He believes Molina and is very excited about all the food.
· Valentin asks Molina to tell him about another film he’s seen, particularly a supernatural one which he would prefer (like ‘The Panther Woman’). Molina obliges and recounts the story of a zombie woman. Readers learn of the film as well as the two men’s thoughts which continually interrupt the narrative.
· Valentin can’t get Marta off his mind. He dictates a letter to Molina for Marta and for once reveals his, presumably, true feelings concerning her, the political movement, his thoughts on being locked up, etc.
· Molina volunteers to help Valentin clean himself up.
· Valentin tears up the letter.
Themes and Motifs:
Power and Control
· After finding out about how Molina is using Valentin to get information on the political movement, readers can now see how Molina’s the one in control; by using his words he can subtly manipulate Valentin and extract information from him. Since he owns the food, he asserts control over Valentin by deciding what and when he can eat, “I expect you to eat the chicken…on condition, though, that you don’t touch the prison chow”. Furthermore, Valentin is both physically and emotionally (he’s feeling confused and overwhelmed by his feelings for Marta) weaker than Molina, giving the latter the power to be in charge of the food, telling stories, etc.
· We can also see the power men have over women from the zombie woman story – the girl is the one who stays home most of the time, is the one who’s commanded (“[the husband] tells her like very rudely…never go near that house”) and who must take care of the husband (“it’s a job for her to drag him back into the bedroom, where she just lies down beside him, trying to cheer him up because she loves him”).
· Readers may at first perceive the relationship between Molina and Valentin as very close, but in fact this only seems to be true on a physical level – Molina doesn’t mind cleaning and caring for Valentin. However on an emotional level, the two are not as close as they first seemed – Valentin mentions “then sometimes, no, I feel like there’s nothing here in this cell except me…all alone…”, disregarding the fact that Molina is his cellmate. Also, since Molina is actually trying to extract information from Valentin readers can see there’s a barrier between the two which won’t allow for a truly close friendship.
· Once again Molina is playing the motherly role of caring for the weak Valentin, a role he seems to adopt frequently throughout the whole book, “you be quiet, you’re convalescing, remember…the sheets are almost dry…chicken is perfect, it won’t upset your stomach at all”. The way he tells the story of the zombie woman film before bedtime further portrays him as a stereotypical mother.
· The way Valentin becomes so excited by all the food makes him appear rather child-like and naïve (because the food is in fact there to make him feel comfortable enough to talk about his political group). For instance he exclaims, “guava paste!”, asking for permission for “the guava paste, when do I get to taste it?…just one spoonful? For now?”, and even Molina noticed “how fast you [Valentin] were eating, like a kid, without even chewing”. This portrayal of him emphasizes the feminine, caring, motherly figure Molina has taken on.
· Throughout the story which Molina tells and during Valentin’s interruptions there seems to be a series of phrases in italics, showing how they’re not part of the film. This surprises, confuses, and makes the readers wonder what each character is talking about exactly.
· I think the phrases in italics are the thoughts which are running through each character’s heads – they seem to be remembering a story (possibly another film Molina has seen) or an event (probably applies to Valentin) which appears to be triggered off by certain parts of the zombie woman tale. [I’ve written out all the italics on the last attached page so you can better make sense of them as a whole]
Ties between stories
· The part in the zombie woman story where we find out “the witch doctors themselves are the ones who kill them, with a special poison they prepare” appears to be very similar to the situation within the prison; the warden is the witch doctor who poisons Valentin’s food in order to manipulate him into telling Molina about his political group.
· Since we found out about how Molina has been sent to spy and coax information out of Valentin, readers can notice subtle phrases which he says to do this which we would’ve interpreted as politeness before. For example, he encourages Valentin to, “keep talking, I’m listening”. On the contrary, it’s strange how Molina interrupts Valentin, “can I interrupt?...I could help you clean yourself”. We would expect Molina to be very happy inside at how he managed to extract lots of important information from Valentin, but instead of encouraging him to keep talking, he abruptly stops him.
· His personality does remain the same, with him still being interested in all the particular details (“the girl…in a very simple tailored dress, but with a beautiful hairdo…a kind of braid…back then the upsweep was a must on certain occasions, to look really chic”) and the romance (“words of this song, saying how when it comes to love, it’s a question of earning it, and at the end of some dark trail, strewn with all kinds of hardships, love awaits those who struggle to the last in order to earn that love”) in the film story. Additionally, he’s still the motherly figure and seems to really care for Valentin, whether this be a genuine feeling or not.
· As the story progresses it seems he trusts Molina more and more, because in this chapter it was the first time he poured his heart out about his feelings for the girl he loves. Moreover, it appears he has no clue as to Molina’s true intentions and so continues to confide in and thank him, “you’ve been very kind to me, honestly, I mean that with all my heart...I expect to be able to show my appreciation, I swear I will”.
· Just like with Molina, Valentin’s personality seems to have remained the same – he’s still the tough ‘man’s man’ (“they tortured me, but sill I didn’t confess anything”), awkward about expressing his romantic side (“it must be strange for you…to get this letter. I feel…lonely, I need you so, I want to talk with you, I want…to be close”), and is still troubled by thoughts of his political movement and his situation (“I have this fear in me…this terrible fear of dying…and of it all ending like this”). He remains both physically and emotionally weak in this chapter, making himself vulnerable and powerless with Molina.
Imagery & Setting:
· A superficially lighthearted atmosphere is set in the beginning of chapter 9, with Molina acting like a mother to the excited Valentin. However, readers know all the food and the fact that Molina accepts the request to tell a story is so he can make Valentin comfortable enough to tell him more personal information about himself and the political situation.
· A sense of uncertainty lingers as a new story is told by Molina along with the confusing interjection of thoughts.
· A rather peaceful setting and atmosphere is established at the end of the chapter when Molina acknowledges how “the shadows that the stove’s casting on the wall…helps me pass the time”. This leaves us imagining the two sitting quietly, watching the shadows on the wall whilst thinking, just like we are, about events which have just occurred, the zombie woman story, and each character’s personal memories and feelings.
· The chapter begins with dialogue between the two protagonists before readers are thrown into another story (within the story) which Molina tells about the zombie woman. He does a majority of the talking, but we can see into both characters’ minds because it appears their thoughts are embedded between the lines of the story as well. Previously, a glimpse of the characters’ thoughts have given readers more insight into their personality and feelings, but this time it further confuses and disorientates us.
· Towards the end of the chapter, another style of narrative is used as Valentin dictates a letter to Molina for Marta – we are in fact reading Valentin’s thoughts, only this time they’re conveyed through a letter allowing Molina to observe them as well. This section gives readers a chance to understand just what has been bothering Valentin for so long, but also allows the spy Molina to get the information which he, presumably, has been searching for.
· As usual, there are many gaps within the narrative which readers are forced to fill in themselves – does the confession about Marta give Molina the information which he needs, what are the italic phrases conveying, and does Molina in fact have feelings and truly cares for Valentin? This reinforces Puig’s of how we constantly make assumptions which may or may not be entirely correct.
Relation of Part to Whole:
This chapter is, like others, full of uncertainty (in both the zombie woman story and the main story itself) which readers have to make sense of by themselves. Similar themes and motifs are also explored, namely power and control, relationship between the protagonists, stereotypical roles, and parallels between the story and the story within the story. Furthermore, the two main characters behave in much the same manners as before, but because we now know Molina has been sent to spy on Valentin, certain phrases take on a whole new meaning in this chapter. For instance, a simple “what could be wrong with you? Couldn’t it be something else? Besides the stomach problem, I mean?” from Molina can be interpreted as him trying to persuade Valentin to share more information with him, as opposed to it being simple, polite questions which one friend would ask another. Readers are also forced to reevaluate the men’s relationship, as we now realise Molina may not be befriending and taking good care of Valentin just because he’s a decent guy.