Kiss of the Spider Woman: Motif Tracking – Setting






















Quotations & Explanations:






“It’s winter, its freezing. The trees are bare in the park. There’s a cold wind blowing. So the girls practically by herself, sitting there on the folding chair…”

The use of cold, freezing and bare gives the reader the image that the woman is isolated. Also we gain a sense that the ‘panther woman’ is lonely through the use of this diction. However we could also conclude that Molina also contains these feelings as he often sees himself has the lead women in the films he tells.


“it’s snowing lightly, the snow deadens every sound and noise, the cars almost slide down the street, very quietly, the street lamp lights up the pure white snowflakes that are falling,”

This setting creates a very ‘eerie’ feeling for audience, almost an uncomfortable feeling; this may provide how Valentin is feeling sharing a room with Molina.


“Then she wakes up in a marvelous bed, all upholstered in pure satin, I think it must have been in like faded pink or pale green, with satin sheets…And tulle curtains on the sides of the canopy…”

The materials described such as “pure satin” create the effect of luxurious living, however we learn that Molina often manipulated the stories to how he liked them therefore we may achieve the impression that this is Molina’s idealistic way of living.


“And the last scene takes place in this pantheon, in Berlin, for heroes, and its incredibly beautiful monument, like a Greek temple, with huge statues of each hero.”

This setting provides very grand imagery and the use of “Greek temple” gives a sense of divination and Hero like qualities. Again that whole sense of romanticism and divine beautiful objects is very reminiscent of Molina.


forest, lovely little houses, all in stone, roofs of straw? no, slate, misty winter, no snow on the ground so it has to be autumn…headlights illuminating the cobblestone drive. Elegant palisades, windows open so it has to be summer, gorgeous chalet, the air suffused with scent of pines.”

This setting takes place in Molina’s thoughts and is a constant stream of his thought in which we assume to be honest and truthful. Again in my personal view the setting is very romantic which is a common theme throughout the novel and especially for Molina’s Character.

The stream of thought is also very fast paced and erratic.


“Beautiful country-style living room, varnished wood and stone, sputtering logs on the hearth, windowsill invaded with ivy. Window panes not large, little casement panels all a little warped and no two alike, so rustic, stairway of dark and polished wood…”

We see again the use of the word “beautiful” by Molina further showing us his obsession with beauty and romance.


“…little maid shivering from cold, only a couple of dying coals no right to add logs to the fire just for herself all alone and forgotten by the world there…”

Again the main woman of the story is shown as being lonely, isolated and forgotten, this may show the true feelings of Molina. The use of “dying coals” shows that


“…the drapes are dark velvet to block the light out, and so to let the light in she draws them open and behind them there’s another set of lacy curtains. Then you get to see the whole turn-of-the-century décor.”

The use of materials again shows luxury. However the dark velvet creates a sense of ‘coziness’ and warmth, it is also very romantic which is maybe why Molina chooses these types of settings as he again manipulates the story to suit him.


“My back touches this sheet that’s so smooth and warm on which I slept every night since I came to the island, and I don’t know how to explain it, my love, but the sheet seems like… like in reality its very smooth and warm skin”

This quotation is part of Valentin’s thoughts, in the final chapter of the story. Here the setting is seems clear to be an island and a sheet where he is sleeping on. The island can be interpreted as the prison, since it is isolated from the world and the warm sheets on which he sleeps on could be seen as Molina and his caring attitude towards Valentin. Therefore this setting is crucial as it reflects upon the major setting throughout the novel, consisting of the prison.


but it looks like what I see is really a desert, there are no trees, or houses, nothing more than the dunes that follow each other as far as the eye can see.”

This setting, once again in Valentin’s thoughts describe a deserted place, and thus relating to the main setting of the prison of the book. The description and the setting of the prison relate as they are both isolated, and from reality and the conditions are almost inhuman just like the desert with no trees or houses.


“she can’t move, there in the deepest part of the jungle she’s trapped in a spider’s bed”

This setting is crucial as it is part of the last chapter, switching from Valentin’s previous thoughts of isolation in the desert to an area full of life, thus the jungle. The fact that a jungle is dense could possibly reflect how Valentin did have to struggle to come to accept Molina (as if he had to struggle to get through the jungle in order to reach the deepest end where the spider was). Furthermore the fact that the area of the jungle focused on in the setting of the spider’s bed, reflects on how Molina is tangled up in his own lies, different identities, stories and other character’s manipulative actions (warden, Valentin) and possibly how also Valentin himself did get slightly manipulated by Molina. Furthermore, partly less related to settings of the quotation, Valentin refers to ‘Molina’ as a she , suggesting that even though Molina hasn’t managed to ‘fool’ the rest of the world in his idea of being a woman, he has ultimately caught Valentin in his ‘web’ as ‘persuaded’ him he is a woman.


“the scene is situated in this dreamy villa, on the outskirts of Monte Carlo, you know those houses along the Riviera, all incredibly luxurious, this one with sprawling stone steps out onto the gardens, and for decoration on the balustrades and on the steps, too, some huge stone pots, like urns, or giant vases, with a beautiful plant growing in each pot, and its usually a gigantic cactus - you know what a century plant looks like?”

This is an extract from the story of the racing boy told by Molina. The setting in this quotation describing a “luxurious” place, could possibly reflect on Molina’s attempt to escape their present setting and situation (prison) through the descriptive details, and also bring out his feminine features through the detailed observations and imagination.


at that auto racetrack, I don’t remember the name of it, the one in the south of France – (V) LeMans – (M) How do men always remember all about auto races?”


Molina is here beginning to narrate to Valentin the story about the racing boy, and thus starts by setting the scene. This setting is important as the way Molina tells it, reinforces his feminine features and the fact that he portrays himself as a woman.


“the arrival on the island, when the boat’s docking, is divine, because her fiancé is right there waiting for her with a whole parade of donkey carts, decorated with flowers, and in a couple of carts there’s a bunch of musicians, playing nice soft tunes up out of little planks, that they whack with sticks and, well, I don’t know why, but that kind of music really gets to me, because the notes sound so sweet on that instrument, like little soap bubble that go popping one after another. And the drums have stopped, fortunately, because they’d sounded like a bad omen.”


This is the beginning section of the zombie story, describing as the fiancé arrives on the island, reveals quite a lot about Molina. Firstly it shows how he uses his stories and especially the detailed descriptions of the settings as an escape from reality, and also depicts Molina’s possible ideal lifestyles and ideal heroic romantic situations. Furthermore the use of this setting, emphasises Molina’s womanly features as he makes note on the flowers and uses descriptive words such as “divine”.   Furthermore, it could possibly relate to the arrival of Valentin and Molina on their island (prison), as described by Valentin’s thoughts at the end, and the drums in the background sounding like a bad omen could represent how Molina and Valentin are both doomed to fail, thus leading to their ultimate death.


“the only thing you see from out on the water is this spectacular villa, all lit up, with several stunning balconies overlooking a sumptuous walk, full of jasmine, then a row of palms, and below that the beach itself.”


Similarly to the zombie story, set in Latin America, initially told for Valentin because of the political situation in it, the Mexican love story is set in the same area of the world, but mostly directed at Molina as he likes to relate to the dramatic/heroic actions of the couple. Once again this setting shows Molina’s feminine language by using “divine” and commenting about the “jasmine”. Furthermore it could be quite important that Molina is describing about this villa as this links to the other stories, (eg: beautiful couple) where most of them include a portrayal of a luxurious setting.


the guy watches the fishing fleet return to their anchorage at the sundown; he walks along the shore, there’s a gorgeous full moon, and the moon quivers apart as it shimmers reflected in the soft surging tide of the tropical night.”


This is also a quotation about the setting of the Beautiful couple, towards the end of the story. This setting is significant as Molina doesn’t only use it as an escape for himself and Molina from reality, but also possibly as a reminder of how “gorgeous” it is out there. Furthermore, the quotation also shows Molina’s romantic side and his stereotypical point of view as it describes a cliché dramatic but romantic part of the story.



Key Moment:

The motif occurs throughout the novel. However it should be noted that description of the settings only appear within the stories that are being told by Molina, as Puig leaves us to imagine and ‘fill the gaps’ of the setting of the cell. The key moment for the motif is the quote on page 280. This is because this is where the most setting takes place and also has significant meaning as it’s in Valentin’s thoughts during the last chapter. The reason for it being significant is that Valentin’s thoughts switch from isolation to a place full of life, since the jungle is dense this may reflect the struggle the valentine goes through, not only by his political fight but also his struggle to accept Molina.