In Woman Hollering Creek, Cisneros is interested in exploring how romance can inspire characters to appreciate the joy of being alive. Of course, this recognition doesn’t always arise from completely positive situations. In fact, messy, discordant, and heartrending relationships often encourage Cisneros’s characters to reexamine their circumstances, ultimately opening their eyes to the world and realizing that all of humanity experiences love. By doing this, they gain a sense of interconnectedness, coming together in their acknowledgement that love is part of the human condition. And because so many of the stories in Woman Hollering Creek are about lust, infidelity, marriage, or motherhood, readers are able to see that love is a varied but common thread that runs throughout human life, something that discretely connects characters even if they exist in separate stories. As such, love is cast as something that leads to joy and connection.
Mining humanity’s general sense of interconnectedness, Cisneros’s protagonists frequently look beyond themselves after experiencing intense romantic moments (whether these moments are good or bad), proving that love encourages people to turn outward. For example, Clemencia, the narrator of “Never Marry a Mexican” is jealous of her lover’s wife. Hurt by the flawed romantic relationship she’s so involved in, she writes: “And now you’re probably […] going back to sleep, with that wife beside you, warm, radiating her own heat, alive under the flannel and down and smelling a bit like milk and hand cream, and that smell familiar and dear to you, oh.” Overcome by this image of her lover with his wife, she projects herself outward, saying, “Human beings pass me on the street, and I want to reach out and strum them as if they were guitars. Sometimes all humanity strikes me as lovely. I just want to reach out and stroke someone, and say There, there, it’s all right, honey. There, there, there.” In this moment, the narrator chooses to address her love-related pain by comforting other people, telling strangers that “it’s all right.” Instead of wallowing in her sorrows, she appreciates the joy of life and the beauty of sharing it with others, saying, “Sometimes all humanity strikes me as lovely.” What’s more, one might argue that she is—in a way—speaking to the characters in the book’s other short stories, characters whose lives resonate “as if they were guitars,” ultimately adding to her own story by existing harmoniously alongside it.
As the many stories in Woman Hollering Creek work together to create a sense of unity and to foster an appreciation of everyday life, Cisneros demonstrates that even failed love and suffering can in some ways be joyous. More than anything, these are mood pieces that plunge readers into the human condition, and this results in a kind of mindfulness that sometimes grows not out of happiness, but out of passion or even brutality. After all, as Cleófilas of the story “Woman Hollering Creek” puts it, “to suffer for love is good. The pain all sweet somehow. In the end.” It is this “sweet” “pain” that Cisneros implies connects “all humanity,” and this is perhaps what the author Ann Beattie means when she says that the stories in Woman Hollering Creek are about “how and why we mythologize love.” Indeed, by telling story after story about romance, Cisneros connects her readers, holding up the experience of love and turning it into a common tale everybody can share.
Love, The Joy of Life, & Interconnection ThemeTracker
Love, The Joy of Life, & Interconnection Quotes in Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories
Salvador inside that wrinkled shirt, inside the throat that must clear itself and apologize each time it speaks, inside that forty-pound body of a boy with its geography of scars, its history of hurt, limbs stuffed with feathers and rags, in what part of the eyes, in what part of the heart, in that cage of the chest where something throbs with both fists and knows only what Salvador knows, inside that body too small to contain the hundred balloons of happiness, the single guitar of grief, is a boy like any other disappearing out the door, beside the schoolyard gate, where he has told his brothers they must wait.
Yours is the one with mean eyes and a ponytail. Striped swimsuit, stilettos, sunglasses, and gold hoop earrings. Mine is the one with bubble hair. Red swimsuit, stilettos, pearl earrings, and a wire stand. But that’s all we can afford, besides one extra outfit apiece. Yours, “Red Flair,” sophisticated A-line coatdress with a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat, white gloves, handbag, and heels included. Mine, “Solo in the Spotlight,” evening elegance in black glitter strapless gown with a puffy skirt at the bottom like a mermaid tail, formal-length gloves, pink chiffon scarf, and mike included. From so much dressing and undressing, the black glitter wears off where her titties stick out. This and a dress invented from an old sock when we cut holes here and here and here, the cuff rolled over for the glamorous, fancy-free, off-the-shoulder look.
Every time the same story. Your Barbie is roommates with my Barbie, and my Barbie’s boyfriend comes over and your Barbie steals him, Okay? Kiss kiss kiss. Then the two Barbies fight. You dumbbell! He’s mine. Oh no he’s not, you stinky! Only Ken’s invisible, right? Because we don’t have money for a stupid-looking boy doll when we’d both rather ask for a new Barbie outfit next Christmas.
I’m not saying I’m not bad. I’m not saying I’m special. But I’m not like the Allport Street girls, who stand in doorways and go with men into alleys.
All I know is I didn’t want it like that. Not against the bricks or hunkering in somebody’s car. I wanted it come undone like gold thread, like a tent full of birds. The way it’s supposed to be, the way I knew it would be when I met Boy Baby.
But you must know, I was no girl back then. And Boy Baby was no boy. Chaq Uxmal Paloquín. Boy Baby was a man. When I asked him how old he was he said he didn’t know. The past and the future are the same thing. So he seemed boy and baby and man all at once, and the way he looked at me, how do I explain?
The truth is, it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t any deal at all. I put my bloody panties inside my T-shirt and ran home hugging myself. I thought about a lot of things on the way home. I thought about all the world and how suddenly I became a part of history and wondered if everyone on the street, the sewing machine lady and the panadería saleswoman and the woman with two kids sitting on the bus bench didn’t all know. Did I look any different? Could they tell? We were all the same somehow, laughing behind our hands, waiting the way all women wait, and when we find out, we wonder why the world and a million years made such a big deal over nothing.
I know I was supposed to feel ashamed, but I wasn’t ashamed. I wanted to stand on top of the highest building, the top-top floor, and yell, I know.
I guess she did it to spare me and Ximena the pain she went through. Having married a Mexican man at seventeen. Having had to put up with all the grief a Mexican family can put on a girl because she was from el otro lado, the other side, and my father had married down by marrying her. If he had married a white woman from el otro lado, that would’ve been different. That would’ve been marrying up, even if the white girl was poor. But what could be more ridiculous than a Mexican girl who couldn’t even speak Spanish, who didn’t know enough to set a separate plate for each course at dinner, nor how to fold cloth napkins, nor how to set the silverware.
I paint and repaint you the way I see fit, even now. After all these years. Did you know that? Little fool. You think I went hobbling along with my life, whimpering and whining like some twangy country-and-western when you went back to her. But I’ve been waiting. Making the world look at you from my eyes. And if that’s not power, what is?
We drag these bodies around with us, these bodies that have nothing at all to do with you, with me, with who we really are, these bodies that give us pleasure or pain. Though I’ve learned how to abandon mine at will, it seems to me we never free ourselves completely until we love, when we lose ourselves inside each other. Then we see a little of what is called heaven. When we can be that close that we no longer are Inés and Emiliano, but something bigger than our lives. And we can forgive, finally.
You and I, we’ve never been much for talking, have we? Poor thing, you don’t know how to talk. Instead of talking with your lips, you put one leg around me when we sleep, to let me know it’s all right. And we fall asleep like that, with one arm or a leg or one of those long monkey feet of yours touching mine. Your foot inside the hollow of my foot.
Dear San Antonio de Padua,
Can you please help me find a man who isn’t a pain in the naglas. There aren’t any in Texas, I swear. Especially not in San Antonio.
Can you do something about all the educated Chicanos who have to go to California to find a job. I guess what my sister […] says is true: “If you didn’t get a husband when you were in college, you don’t get one.”
I would appreciate it very much if you sent me a man who speaks Spanish, who at least can pronounce his name the way it’s supposed to be pronounced. Someone please who never calls himself “Hispanic” unless he’s applying for a grant from Washington, D.C.
Can you send me a man man. I mean someone who’s not ashamed to be seen cooking or cleaning or looking after himself. In other words, a man who acts like an adult.
[…] I’ll turn your statue upside down until you send him to me. I’ve put up with too much too long, and now I’m just too intelligent, too powerful, too beautiful, too sure of who I am finally to deserve anything else.
M3rlc5l45s Bl1ck Chr3st 4f 2sq53p5l1s,
3 1sk y45, L4rd, w3th 1ll my h21rt pl21s2 w1tch 4v2r M1nny B2n1v3d2s wh4 3s 4v2rs21s. 3 l4v2 h3m 1nd 3 d4n’t kn4w wh1t t4 d4 1b45t 1ll th3s l4v2 1nd sh1m2 th1t f3lls m2.
And in my dreams I’m slapping the heroine to her senses, because I want them to be women who make things happen, not women who things happen to. Not loves that are tormentosos. Not men powerful and passionate versus women either volatile and evil, or sweet and resigned. But women. Real women. The ones I’ve loved all my life. If you don’t like it lárgate, honey. Those women. The ones I’ve known everywhere except on TV, in books and magazines. Las girlfriends. Las comadres. Our mamas and tías. Passionate and powerful, tender and volatile, brave. And, above all, fierce.