Daughter Of Fortune By Isabel Allende

2815 words - 11 pages

The story begins with another subtle biblical allusion, this time to the prophet Moses, as the narrator relates the story of how Eliza, as a baby, was abandoned. The memories of that day are mixed. Eliza believes that she was lying in a soapbox, for she remembers the scent; but Rose says that she found the baby Eliza in a wicker basket, reminiscent of Moses's adoption. Although the details of her life are not significantly tied to the story of Moses, Eliza is, in her own way, a leader, demonstrating through her adventures that there is a path that women can follow which will lead to freedom.
Eliza's own oppression comes in many forms. She must first deal with Rose, who insists on dressing her in fancy clothes to impress her societal friends. Because Eliza must not dirty these expensive dresses, she is imprisoned within them, unable to romp around the house like the playful child that she is. As she grows older, she must wear a corset, a tightly strung and stiffly reinforced bodice that artificially creates a small waist and a high-rising bosom—feminine features that attract men. To encourage a so-called correct posture, Eliza is also outfitted with a metal rod that is placed down her back as she practices the piano. Although Rose herself is gladly unmarried, understanding that she is a lot freer as a single woman, she wants to raise Eliza in a way that eliminates the mistakes that she made as a young woman. She spouts feminist attitudes and enjoys her semi-independent role, but she is thrown into confusion when she takes on the role of motherhood. Eliza is named for Rose's mother, and possibly the thought of her mother makes Rose review her own life through a filter tainted by the prejudices and conditionings of an earlier generation. The result is that Rose's rebellion, which she found gratifying, is suddenly overlaid with a film of guilt. As a mother, she feels more responsible socially and therefore constrains (or attempts to constrain) Eliza's natural impulses. Upon Eliza's reaching puberty, for instance, Rose warns her that men will now be able to do with her whatever they want, suggesting that Eliza should be wary of her own sexual stirrings. Rose looks upon Eliza's menstruation as a curse, and discussions about emotions are forbidden. Just as Eliza's body is confined in rigid undergarments reinforced from time to time with unyielding metal rods, so are her heart and soul contained. The material restrictions on her body are symbolic of the encumbrances of fear and guilt placed on her emotions and on her spirit.
Fortunately for Eliza, she has Mama Fresia, who has her own limitations but who at least provides Eliza with another interpretation of reality. Mama Fresia is an earthy woman who...

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