Yellow Women, Death, and Trials

1. In the story “Yellow Woman’, the heroine, a woman whose name is never given, is struggling to understand what appears to be the convergence of two realities — the mystical folklore of her ancestors, and her modern day life. Throughout her life she has heard various stories in which a women referred to as “Yellow Women’ is whisked away by a mystical mountain spirit in the form of a man.

As far as can be seen, the man she meets by the river does not initially claim to be Silva. It seems that when the heroine goes down to the river, perhaps hoping these stories are true, she finds a man who is willing to take advantage of her fantasy. He says to the woman “last night you guessed my name and you knew why I had come’ (1205). The fact that she “guessed’ who he was implies that she had romanticized hopes that he would be there to whisk her away when she came to the river.

The Jell-o and the stolen beef bring us glimpses of the modern day reality. The woman fairly readily goes along with Silva’s plans although she does question the reality presented to her saying “I’ve been to school and there are highways and pickup trucks that Yellow Woman never saw’ (1206). For the greater part of the story, however, she views Silva as a mountain spirit rather than as a man who has manipulated and abducted her. I believe the stolen beef — which Silva is willing to kill for — reminds the reader that this man is not a mischievous mountain spirit, but a sinister, virtually unknown and unpredictable man.

At the end of the story when the woman has escaped from Silva she becomes nostalgic, regretting leaving him. As she returns home she wistfully thinks “he will come back sometime and be waiting again by the river’ (1211). Inside the grandmother is helping the son make Jell-o. These two realities, the legends of the past, and the contemporary lifestyle in which they find themselves in are in direct conflict with each other.

  1. The father seems far less involved in Leila’s life. While the mother came and visited her in jail, we are not told that the father did. We are also told that the mother had Leila stay in her own bed so that if Leila was taken away in the night the mother would know and do her best to stop them. It is the mother’s screams, not the father’s protests that are described when Leila is taken away.

The father’s mind seems easily swayed by the opinion of the people. Initially when the trial is going on, he sits in his seat gripped with fear and pain. It is not clear whether this pain is for himself or his daughter. When the crowd sitting in on the trial applauds Leila the father suddenly becomes elated. He considers shouting “I’m her father; I’m Al-Fargani who fathered her and whose name she bears’ (1199). His pride appears to be for himself rather than his daughter; “What if I were to stand up now and reveal my identity to them?’ “Men like us live and die for a moment such as this, for others to recognize us, to applaud us, for us to become heroes with eyes looking at us and fingers pointing at us’ (1199).

When the judge withdraws and the crowd begins to whisper, the father hears various things — good and troubling — said about his daughter. It is not until he hears whispers about his own honor that he becomes distraught. While now hoping his identity will remain hidden from the crowd he thinks, “What is left of a man whose honour is violated?’ and “Death was preferable for him and for her now’ (1200). At this point he also bitterly ruminates on how he chided his daughter for going into politics. Perhaps, he thinks, if she had only listened they would not be in this trouble. It is clear, from observing the father, that he is proud and supportive only when the people are as well. He accepts her when it brings him honor to do so, and disowns her at other times.

3. This story is centered on Senator Onesimo Sanchez, a man who has been told by his doctors that he has not long to live. I believe the title indicates the deep rooted apathy which this man now holds. Although he may find love it does not matter, death is coming. Although he has five children and a wife, it does not matter; his fate is set. Although he makes promises to advance his political career, his career is already doomed. The title, “Death Constant Beyond Love’ indicates that although everything else may come and go, death is sure. For this man the assurance of death has come sooner than he hoped.

3 thoughts on “Yellow Women, Death, and Trials

  1. Mary Filbin

    I like how you relate the foods to modern day vs how the story takes the characters back into history. As for Leila’s father he represents a different society than our own. It is hard to relate to a parent who is so different than our own, one who is concerned with how others view them more than the actions of their own children…even though we see it everyday in the news/reality tv- where some one uses their children for gains.

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  2. jwmaring

    I had to agree with your second post about the father. It appears as though he was one of the many and not strong enough a man to take a stance the way a daughter should hope her father would. His perception of himself and his daughter was dependent on the prevailing mood of the public at large. This lack of character and ability to take a stance for his own daughter meant that he valued the perception of the “Arab Street” more than what was right from the standpoint of women and equality, even if it involved his own daughter.

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  3. bdfleagle

    I also see your point about the father, but is it clear that he is swaying with the crowd? Or is it really that he hasn’t been able to face what has been done to her. It could be that he cannot fathom such disgrace until he hears it in the form of the crowd and their banter. Then he is so overwhelmed by the reality of it he just caves in..all thoughts of taking some sort of honor from the deal vanish. The pity is that he still isn’t thinking of her, but of himself, unabashedly. Just himself.

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