Throughout the novel, the love of literature is linked to the love of women. The novel’s male characters spend most of their time fighting for control of books and women. The novel characterizes some of these conflicts as heroic and thrilling quests, while denigrating others as the expression of an unhealthy desire for power. The close juxtaposition of these “positive” and “negative” quests for ownership creates doubt as to whether they are different at all. Ultimately, while the obsessions of the protagonists, Carax and Daniel, result in seemingly positive outcomes, the novel is also a meditation on how easily love and passion can transform into destructive obsession.
The novel’s various villains are all driven by their desire to exercise total control over the people and things in their lives. Mr. Aldaya and Jorge claim to love Penelope, but they manifest this love by jealously guarding her and controlling her every move. When they discover Carax’s love for her, they treat him as a thief, showing they see her as a possession more than an independent person. When her pregnancy makes it clear that the men in her family can’t control her choices, Mr. Aldaya imprisons her in the house and lets her die by giving birth to her baby unassisted. The novel characterizes the Aldaya men as louts and tyrants, crushing a beautiful love affair in order to satisfy their desire for control.
In Daniel’s parallel narrative, Mr. Aguilar hits Bea when he suspects her of meeting with a lover. He takes it for granted that he will decide the direction of her life, just as he would deal with any object he owned. Like Mr. Aldaya, he is portrayed unsympathetically, and the novel celebrates Daniel and Bea’s marriage as a triumph of love in the face of overbearing parental authority.
Fumero, the two protagonists’ archenemy, becomes a brute through his desire for control. He falls in love with Penelope Aldaya and unjustly tries to kill Carax, her preferred suitor. Later, he becomes similarly obsessed with policing the behavior of citizens under the fascist regime. For example, his incessant persecution of Don Federico for being gay mirrors Aldaya’s and Aguilar’s attempts to interfere in the private affairs of others. Fumero’s obsessive quest to destroy those he cannot control shows how personal obsessions can translate into different kinds of destructive and oppressive behavior.
The protagonists (Carax and Daniel) also display what could be considered obsessive or possessive behavior, but rather than warping their characters or leading them to commit crimes, this behavior makes them into heroes and propels them towards happy endings. Early in the novel, Daniel refuses to give up his copy of The Shadow of the Wind when Barceló offers to buy it at an extravagant price. His preference for ownership of a beloved object over money demonstrates his integrity, and wins him Barceló’s respect and patronage.
This episode is linked to Daniel’s obsession with Clara Barceló, which develops as he reads to her from the precious tome. Although Daniel is much younger than Clara and has no real chance with her, the novel presents his infatuation as a serious passion, and treats Clara’s affair with Neri as a serious betrayal. Daniel’s anger with Clara’s behavior is very similar to Aldaya and Aguilar’s attempts to control their daughters’ behavior, but the novel is very sympathetic to Daniel’s feelings, portraying Clara as vulgar and caricature-like when Daniel catches her in bed, and Neri as a thug who persecutes Daniel unfairly when he’s quite justly enraged at all this interference in his affairs.
Carax attributes all his books to the inspiration of Penelope, his true love and muse; his passion for his work is dependent on his passion for Penelope. He begins his quest to burn all his work right after he finally realizes that Penelope’s family will always prevent them from being together. Because he can never possess Penelope in marriage, he achieves ultimate possession over the next best thing, his books, which he obliterates so no one else can control them.
While Daniel is originally horrified by the mysterious person destroying Carax’s works, he comes to see the author’s quest as misdirected but romantic and understandable, and becomes very sympathetic towards him. In fact, Carax’s obsessive behavior mirrors other men’s attempts to possess women completely. It’s also disturbing that Carax behaves so violently towards the objects that represent a real woman he supposedly loves; his behavior emblematizes a wider pattern wherein men turn savagely on even beloved women if those women can’t be owned completely.
The various characters’ obsessive desire for ownership leads to bad outcomes for both women and books. Because of his obsession, Carax almost destroys every book he wrote. It’s only through Daniel’s efforts that the author returns to his senses and the books are saved from destruction. While Carax’s books can be saved, Penelope Aldaya’s life cannot. Her gruesome death in childbirth is the novel’s horrifying centerpiece. The fact that her father, who acts out of a desire for control, and Julian, who acts out of love, behave rather similarly shows the fine line between passionate obsession and destructive possessiveness.
Bea’s happy ending is one way in which Daniel’s story diverges from Carax’s tragedy. At least superficially, Bea is the antidote to the wrongs suffered by Penelope. She’s characterized as headstrong and independent; Fermín says that she saved their lives in the ultimate battle with Fumero. However, the main action she takes in the novel is to marry Daniel, thereby effectively transferring herself from her father’s ownership to Daniel’s. While she exerts independence to take on an illicit lover, she submits to Daniel immediately and completely. During their tryst in the Aldaya house she tells him to “do what you like to me,” and in the novel’s final chapters, she assimilates completely into Daniel’s life without pursuing any goals of her own. Even under the best of circumstances, Daniel’s urge to feel ownership over the women he loves, and Bea’s acceptance of this, limit the possibilities of her life.
Also hovering at the edge of the epilogue is Clara Barceló, who experiences a series of disastrous love affairs and becomes a lonely spinster. Her fate suggests that spurning Daniel’s obsession earns her punishment, and that women who don’t accept possessive love won’t achieve any happiness at all.
While the novel is full of clearly defined protagonists and antagonists—men who are “good” fighting against men who are “bad”—nearly all the male characters display similarly disturbing behavior towards women. The desire to possess women at all costs is a sinister thread that unites all the novel’s men, and reminds the reader that Daniel and Julian aren’t quite as different from the villains as they claim to be. Although Daniel doesn’t suffer as a result of this behavior, and in fact achieves a fairly ideal ending, Bea’s more subdued fate and Clara’s sad spinsterhood serve as a reminder that this kind of behavior is always destructive to someone, no matter what positive or negative repercussions it may have to the man in question.
Possessive and Obsessive Love ThemeTracker
Possessive and Obsessive Love Quotes in The Shadow of the Wind
It didn’t occur to him for an instant that Julián secretly despised him, that his affection was a sham, only a pretext to be close to Penélope. To possess her wholly and utterly. They did resemble each other in that.
Fumero was very keen on movies and went to the cinema at least twice a week. It was in a cinema that he had understood that Penélope had been the love of his life. The rest, especially his mother, had been nothing but tarts.