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Intertextuality and the Quest for Identity in Dulce María Loynaz's Jardín

Elena M. de Jongh

Florida International University

     Abstract: This essay analyzes the function of intertextuality in Jardín, an early novel by the Cuban poet Dulce María Loynaz, in subverting the metaphor of creativity as a fundamentally male quality. It presents woman as reader of herself (as defined by patriarchal texts and traditions) and as author of self. The creation story of the Book of Genesis, the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, and the epistolary genre are major intertexts of this novel. Loynaz's transformation of these intertexts in the female protagonist's quest for identity serves to subvert two canonical masks: woman as bringer of death (Eve) and woman as lifeless object of male desire (Sleeping Beauty). In Jardín Loynaz positions woman at the center of the Garden, of the Text, and hence, at the center of Creation.

     Key Words: 20th century, Loynaz (Dulce María), Cuban literature, women's writing, Cuban novel, identity, feminist criticism, quest, garden, intertextuality.

     Feminist critics have shown that in patriarchal Western culture literary creativity is presented as a fundamentally male quality (Gilbert and Gubar 6). As stated by Toril Moi, the writer 'fathers' his text; in the image of the Divine Creator he becomes the Author -the sole origin and meaning of his work (57). An important implication of the literary paternity metaphor is that the dominant images of women in literature are those created by men. In their well-known study of nineteenth-century women writers, The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar observe that the notion that the chief creature man has generated is woman has a long and complex history. From Eve, Minerva, Sophia, and Galatea onward... patriarchal mythology defines women as created by, from, and for men, the children of male brains, ribs, and ingenuity (12). In the Judeo-Christian tradition the Paradise story of Genesis holds Woman (Eve) responsible for the Fall of Man, that is, for the banishment of the human race from the primeval peace of the Garden. Mary Daly notes that the story of the Fall, an attempt to make sense of the human condition, was an exclusively male effort in a male-dominated society and therefore reflects the defective social arrangements of the time (46). The tale of the Fall places the myth of female evil as the foundation of Judeo-Christian tradition and takes on cosmic proportions since the male's viewpoint is metamorphosed into God's viewpoint (Daly 47). Moreover, in the Book of Genesis, the power of naming was conferred by God on Adam but not on Eve.

     What happens, then, when Eve appropriates for herself the power of naming, that is, when the author of a text is a woman? According to Gilbert and Gubar, before the woman writer can journey toward literary autonomy, she must come to terms with the mythic masks male artists have fastened over her human face... by identifying her with the 'eternal types' they have themselves invented... (16-17). And because patriarchal definitions of women have historically pervaded literature, a critical stage in the female author's quest for her own identity (her own reflection) involves contemplation of the female image in the mirror of male texts. In other words, because women in patriarchal societies have historically been reduced to characters and images imprisoned in texts generated by male expectations and designs, women's writing necessarily involves the process of self-definition (12, 17).

     A dominant tendency among contemporary [417] women writers is the subversion and transformation of themes, myths, literary traditions, and established stylistic and linguistic models (Ciplijauskaité 217-18). This intertextuality, which arises when new literary texts connect with other (canonical) texts -literary or nonliterary- as well as with cultural contexts, is very discernible in Jardín, a novel by Cuban author Dulce María Loynaz, completed in 1935, but not published until 1951. (52) Although Loynaz rose to literary prominence in the 1930s and 1940s and is part of a rich tradition of Cuban women writers that can be traced back to the nineteenth century, her work remains scarcely studied. This lack of critical attention is not unique to Loynaz, and it should be noted that those few women writers who have not been excluded from the canon of Cuban literature (e. g., Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda) are not simply sporadic peculiarities from a predominantly male literary tradition in that country. (53) Cuban critic Susana Montero has identified approximately sixty Cuban women who published works of fiction between 1923 and 1958 (8). Her compilation focuses on narrative works and does not include poets and journalists of that period such as Emilia Bernal, Juana Borrero, María Villar Buceta, Dulce María Borrero, and Mariblanca Sabas Alomá. Many of these authors defined themselves as feministas or sufragistas, advocated women's liberation, and participated in the women's movement in pre-revolutionary Cuba. Yet with very few exceptions, the contributions of women to the literature written in the early decades of that country's history remains virtually ignored.

     Cuban author Dulce María Loynaz, despite having been awarded the prestigious Cervantes Prize for Literature in 1992, the highest honor in Hispanic letters, has received little critical attention. Carmen Ochando points out that official honors on the island have tended to arrive late in this writer's career, and include the Ministry of Culture's Distinción por la Cultura Nacional in 1981, the Alejo Carpentier Medal from the Council of State and the Ministry of Culture in 1983, and an homage at the University of Havana in 1991 (25). However, subsequent to the Cervantes award there has been an extraordinary outpouring of interest in Loynaz in Cuba (D. Fernández, p. c.). Publications such as Ana Rosa Núñez's Homenaje a Dulce María Loynaz, also attest to a growing appreciation for Loynaz's works in the Cuban community in the United States.

     Loynaz is best known as a poet. Her published books of poetry include Versos (1920-1938) (1938), Canto a la mujer estéril (1938), Juegos de agua. Versos del agua y del amor (1947), Carta de Amor al Rey Tut-Ank-Amen (1953), Poemas sin nombre (1953), Últimos días de una casa (1958), and Poesías escogidas (1984). Her publications, most of which appeared during the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, also include a book of travels, Un verano en Tenerife (1958), essays on literature by women writers (e. g., Gómez de Avellaneda, Gabriela Mistral, and Delmira Agustini), as well as numerous articles and weekly chronicles in Cuban newspapers such as El País and Excelsior. Jardín is her only novel published to date.

     Loynaz began writing Jardín in 1928 -the year after she earned the Doctor of Law degree from the University of Havana- and completed the novel in 1935, shortly after Cuban women obtained the right to vote. During these early decades of the twentieth century, a time of great feminist activity, a dynamic and effective women's movement flourished in Cuba and women's rights became part of the Cuban political consciousness (Stoner 9). Feminist issues were debated in the country's most popular newspapers, magazines and journals, while novels such as Triunfo de la débil presa (1926) and La vida manda (1929) by feminist writer Ofelia Rodríguez Acosta, were the subject of controversy and discussion in prerevolutionary Cuba (de Jongh, Women's Rights 12-13). At the Lyceum, the most cultural of the women's organizations founded in the early decades of the Cuban Republic, Loynaz gave public readings and lectures, as she recalls in a 1988 interview: [418]

           Aquí había una sociedad muy adelantada, constituida sólo por mujeres, que se llamaba Lyceum. En Cuba las mujeres han regido los más adelantados centros intelectuales. El Lyceum fue fundado y regido por mujeres: era una asociación cultural... y realizaba regularmente ciclos de conferencias. (20)           

     Loynaz's interest in women writers is evident through her efforts, in 1953, to have Cuba's new National Theater named after a literary foremother, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (Loynaz, La Avellaneda 270). Loynaz also maintained associations with contemporary women authors from other countries, among them Spanish poet Carmen Conde. Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral visited Loynaz in Cuba on several occasions and gave poetry readings with her at the Ateneo in Havana in 1953 (Simón 731-32; Burgos En el abismo 19-20).

     Montero classifies Jardín as a feminist novel por ser un homenaje a la mujer, representada en la protagonista Bárbara: lo eterno femenino, Eva simbólica, que encarna diferentes rasgos de la psicología femenina, como si en ella se sumasen varias mujeres... (59). But in addition, Jardín may be read as a feminist subversion of the literary/creativity paternity metaphor. Although Jardín does not overtly deal with the milieu and aspirations of feminism, it does chart a woman's experience and her quest for identity in a patriarchal society.

     Jardín, a highly intertextual novel, is anchored in literary and nonliterary texts and traditions, including the Bible, the fairy tale, mythology, the epistolary genre, and the locus amoenus/bucolic tradition. Intertextuality in Jardín serves to transform canonical texts and traditions which tend to marginalize women, deprive them of their own voice, and condemn them to a life of passive confinement as objects created of and for man. The transformation of these intertexts suggest to the reader that women have the power to create (and by extension, write, their own lives) and to reach toward the woman trapped on the other side of the mirror/text and help her to climb out (Gilbert and Gubar 16). It is principally in this sense -in the interpretation of Jardín as a metaphor for woman's rejection of patriarchal texts (literary and nonliterary) and cultural contexts- that Jardín may be considered a feminist novel.

     Two major intertexts of Jardín are the Paradise story of the Book of Genesis and Sleeping Beauty. The novel's connection with them in the female protagonist's quest for identity invites a re-examination of two essential mythic masks: woman as temptress, as bringer of death (Eve), and woman as life-less, dependent upon a man to awaken her from a sleeping death (Sleeping Beauty). Both Eve and the fairy tale princess are banished from life for their curiosity and defiance of authority. (54)

     Bárbara, the protagonist of Jardín, is motivated by curiosity in her search for her own identity. Her quest encompasses several stages that correspond to the external structure and the setting of the novel. The book is divided into a brief introductory section, five major parts, and a brief epilogue that complements the introduction. When the reader first encounters Bárbara, her world consists of the garden and the family mansion where she apparently lives alone, on an unidentified island. Part I involves a reconstruction of Bárbara's childhood and adolescence. Part II focuses on the protagonist's exploration of the garden, her discovery of the pabellón in the garden where she finds old love letters written to an ancestor also named Bárbara, and Part III incorporates Bárbara's reading of the letters. These sections are introspective, and the action occurs largely in interior settings (the house and the pabellón). In these stages, Bárbara's exploration involves visual and written texts: the non-reflecting mirrors of family photographs; a book containing a fairy tale; the love letters written by a man. The protagonist is therefore framed by pre-existing texts as well as by the physical setting of the protagonist's alcoba, the house, the labyrinthine walled garden, the island where she lives. In Part IV Bárbara encounters a man who has landed on the beach near her garden after his boat is thrown off course by a storm, and escapes with him to civilization. The last major section of the novel narrates [419] Bárbara's experiences in the world and her return to the garden. The story is told in the third person by an omniscient narrator and there is little dialogue. Other narrative voices are interjected through inclusion of the love letters and other written texts, particularly the story of Sleeping Beauty and the love letters.

     The author's preface to Jardín offers provocative insights into her concept of the novelistic genre itself. In addition to establishing a distinction between Jardín and prevailing characteristics of the novel, Loynaz's words draw attention to her departure from existing (male) literary models. The reader is thus alerted at the outset to Loynaz's divergence with male novelists. Jardín, she points out, differs in both form and content: No es, gracias a Dios, una novela humana (9). She wonders if Jardín may even be considered a novel: Quizá no sea ni siquiera una novela (9) because: El Diccionario de la Lengua dice -y hay que creerle- que novela es una obra literaria donde se narra una acción fingida; y cabe preguntar si merece el nombre de acción este ir y venir infatigable, este hacer caminar infinitamente a una mujer por un jardin (9). Loynaz's implicitly ironic words reveal an awareness that her work, in both content and form, does not conform to the (predominantly male) mainstream literary tradition:

           ...para fatiga mía, voy contra la corriente. Como no pude nunca interesarme en las cocinas modernas ni en los idilios de casino dominguero, he venido a hacer de la criatura de mi libro un ser de poca carne y poco hueso, un personaje irreal, imposible de encajar en nuestros moldes, en nuestros modos, en nuestros gustos y hasta en nuestras creencias. (10, emphasis mine)           

     Loynaz's reference to socially-sanctioned feminine activity (las cocinas modernas...) reveals an awareness that a woman writer represents a disturbing departure from patriarchal society's model of prescribed female behavior (...para fatiga mía, voy contra la corriente). Moreover, the use of maternity imagery to construct the notion of authorship (la criatura de mi libro) and the emphasis of the difference embodied in her work (imposible de encajar en nuestros moldes...), emphasize this writer's departure from male literary models and subtly subvert the literary paternity metaphor.

     The mingling and juxtaposition of the realistic and the fantastic in Jardín obscures the differentiation between past, present and future, between the possible and the improbable. Far from a realistic account, Jardín is, according to its author:

  historia incoherente y monótona de una mujer y un jardín. No hay tiempo ni espacio, como en las teorías de Einstein. El jardín y la mujer están en cualquier meridiano del mundo -el más curvo o el más tenso-. Y en cualquier grado -el más alto o el más bajo- de la circunferencia del tiempo. Hay muchas rosas. (9)           

     These words underscore the ambiguity that pervades the novel and alert the reader to the impossibility of a single reading of this enigmatic and cryptic work whose structure mirrors the labyrinthine garden that frames Bárbara's existence. The novel's lyricism and dream-like quality are thus manifest from the beginning. In a scene that appears to anticipate the magical realism that would come to define contemporary Latin American fiction, Bárbara witnesses the moon fall from the sky and land, shattered, in her garden:

               ...Bárbara se detuvo y miró a lo alto. La luna se desprendía; desgarraba las nubes y se precipitaba sobre la tierra dando volteretas por el espacio.           
     Pasó un minuto y pasó un siglo. La luna, en el alero del mirador, rebotó con un sonido de cristales y fue a caer despedazada en el jardín a los pies de Bárbara.
     Astillas de luna saltaron sobre su cara... (15)

     For a brief moment, as Bárbara gathers the moon in her arms to bury it in her garden, she holds the secret of the Night. She then returns con las manos húmedas embarradas de tierra y de luna (15) to the house -the enclosed space which is the setting for the first part of the novel.

     A quote by Bacon connects the title with the Book of Genesis: Dios Todopoderoso, primeramente plantó un jardín (14). The biblical creation story, in referring to the Father and the first man, is masculine in nature and eliminates woman from the process in which biologically she plays a major [420] role. Although Loynaz's reference establishes the correlation: God the Creator/God the Father/the Author/the Text, that paradigm is subverted in Jardín by the conspicuous absence of man, that is, of Adam (the first human to live in the Garden). (55) In Jardín, in the beginning there is a woman, alone, in a garden: Bárbara era menos que la primera mujer, que el primer ser humano en los albores nebulosos de la Creación (105). Comparisons to Eve appear frequently throughout the novel: Había en Bárbara, como en Eva, una inmensa y antigua inocencia, al mismo tiempo que una avidez frutal, una actitud perenne de nacer sin haber nacido nunca, de despertarse sin saberse a punto fijo en qué noche había dormido su sueño... (318). But unlike su abuela Eva, Bárbara will not be banished from the garden for her curiosity, her avidez frutal. The intertextuality that arises in the novel's relationship with the Book of Genesis indirectly produces a revision of Western culture's patriarchal creation story.

     In Jardín men function as secondary characters whose roles are defined in relation to the female protagonist. They remain nameless, with one exception: the author of old love letters, the signature of which is so faded, only the first letter of his name remains: -Es Alberto o Armando. Acaso sea Alfredo o no..., más bien Armando, por la A tan redonda. Si no fuera por la redondez de la A, se diría que es Adolfo. También puede ser Antonio, o puede ser Arturo... (133). The association previously established with the biblical creation story strongly suggests that the A could also stand for Adán (Adam).

     Like Sleeping Beauty, to whom the protagonist is also repeatedly compared, Bárbara appears destined for confinement from the moment of birth. Spatial constrictures coincide with the quest for a personal history and with introspection, Cómo estaba su vida llena de preguntas sin respuestas! (21).The imagery of enclosure evoked in the interrogation of Bárbara's history serves to frame the stage in her search for identity which corresponds to a lack of self, to a life that has no story. Thus, when Bárbara first appears in Jardín she is looking through the iron bars of her walled garden to the city beyond the grounds to which she appears to be restricted: Bárbara pegó su cara pálida a los barrotes de hierro y miró a través de ellos... (15). As suggested by the image of imprisonment evoked by the barrotes de hierro, Bárbara is not free. Her view, and, hence, her perspective are fragmented: cortado a iguales tramos por el entrecruzamiento de lanzas de la reja (15) and conditioned by this limiting environment comprised of a house surrounded by a garden, which in turn is surrounded by walls muros... cuadrados y simétricos (15). The ocean, a symbol of freedom and hope to the inhabitant of this island prison, lies beyond.

     The garden functions as an extension of the house, a symbol of women's socially prescribed role. Loynaz's view of the garden stands in sharp contrast to the long (predominantly male) literary convention of the garden as symbol of primeval peace, of paradise lost. This tradition is exemplified in classic Spanish literature in the pastoral novel and in the poetry of Garcilaso de la Vega. Garcilaso's pastoral poetry is set in the artificial Arcadia that Renaissance writers inherited from the bucolic poetry of Greece and Rome (Parker 48). In The Philosophy of Love in Spanish Literature, Alexander Parker draws the following parallel between Arcadia and the Biblical Garden of Eden:

           Arcadia was a means of presenting human love, as well as the human environment in a state of innocence, and it expressed nostalgia for this state which had since been lost. The Biblical myth of the Garden of Eden presented the same state in a benign and beautiful setting: man in perfect accord with his Creator and with his natural environment his senses and emotions perfectly harmonized under the dominion of reason. (48)           

     Because the Biblical story assigns blame for the disruption and loss of this harmonious state to the female of the species, it is not surprising that the re/construction of the creation story by a woman author results in a transformation of the mythical garden. [421]

     Thus, far from the notion of the unspoiled, pastoral existence away from the evils of civilization, Bárbara's garden is not bucolic, edenic. Nature is not idealized in this novel, as underscored by the quote by Teixeira de Pascoaes that precedes the text: Sólo los animales encuentran natural la Naturaleza (13), and dramatized in the protagonist's struggle against the invisible and mysterious yoke that imprisons her. Loynaz inverts the locus amoenus metaphor; the garden of Jardín is menacing and oppressive whereas the city outside the walled, labyrinthine garden represents the forbidden world for which Bárbara longs. The protagonist is tyrannized by this enclosed environment, described by Loynaz as el antiguo misterio vegetal que aprisiona su vida (11). This setting may be considered a metaphor for woman's marginality, solitude, and alienation. At this stage Bárbara's life is one of loneliness, silence, and limitations, una vida de puertas cerradas. Her image is not even reflected in the mirror of the house:

           ... entre las masas de sombra clarea el espejo, puesto tan alto que nadie podría mírarse en él. ...Algunas veces, Bárbara ha sentido pena por este espejo inútil, sin renuevo de imágenes, condenado por siempre a la inmovibilidad y a la ausencia de toda vida. (l9) (56)           

     It is a house of silence as the protagonist's childhood has likewise been one of silence: Pero su vida ha sido una lección de silencio (68) and its windows keep out all life: Cristales de la casa para filtrar el sol, para filtrar el ruido, para filtrar la Vida... (67). Likened to a fairy tale princess who is dead in life, at this stage Bárbara, is una vida en gérmen... estaba en la vida, pero como dentro de una muralla de cristal... (105-06).

     The connection with the fairy tale tradition is more fully developed through interjection of segments of Sleeping Beauty as Bárbara, (in her childhood stage referred to by the narrator as la Niña) reads the fairy tale. In a chapter parenthetically subtitled (Glosa de un cuento pasado de moda), the omniscient narrator establishes clear parallels between the child princess and the protagonist of Jardín. Bárbara's story is accordingly framed by the story of Sleeping Beauty, and the reader, who is assumed to be familiar with the fairy tale, is invited to read Jardín doubly, intertextually. Bárbara's life mirrors that of the princess and the separation between fairy tale and novel is frequently blurred.

     Fairy tales are considered to be powerful transmitters of romantic myths which encourage women to internalize only those aspirations deemed to be acceptable within a patriarchy (Karen E. Rowe, qtd. in Ruthven 80). Marcia R. Lieberman calls them training manuals for girls which serve to acculturate women to traditional roles (qtd. in Ruthven 80). The comparison of Bárbara to the fairy tale princess suggests that the protagonist of Jardín is enclosed in the house of patriarchal expectations, locked in a male text. Bárbara-Niña is therefore symbolically dead, life-less, voice-less. The message of Sleeping Beauty to Bárbara, the young girl who reads the fairy tale is that she is a passive creature, like the princess who waits to be brought to life by the man she will marry and with whom she will live happily ever after: Quién vendrá a despertarla dentro de nosotros mismos, dormida tras de la selva que va creciendo? (52). However, in Jardín the narrator deconstructs the myth of romantic love by following the fairy tale's traditional happy ending: ...y fueron muy felices y tuvieron muchos hijos, y reinaron otros cien años (55) with the observation: A pesar de todo, el primer amor de una mujer se parece siempre al Príncipe de este cuento... se parece como un cuento a otro cuento (55, emphasis mine). Jardín thus reflects another text while at the same time transforming it.

     The modification of the fairy tale tradition represented by the story of Sleeping Beauty is further established as la Niña approaches young adulthood:

                         El día que la Princesa cumplió quince años subió al terrado del castillo...                   


     Escalas, escalas... Hay que subir mucho, pero estos peldaños no son de luz, sino de piedra dura... [422]
     Igual que la Princesa de quince años, Bárbara tiene una cola fatigada que arrastrar por los escalones, rumbo a su destino.


     Cuando llegue allá arriba, encontrará una viejecita hilando, y como Bárbara tampoco ha visto nunca hilar...
     Es parte de la historia que el huso hinque su dedo y ella caiga en un sueño que va a durar cien años.
     Cumplido el tiempo, vendrá un Príncipe de remotos países a desencantarla con un beso de milagro aleteándole en los labios...
     Ya van los pasos de Bárbara escalera arriba...
     Pero no está cerrada la puerta, ni hay una viejecita hilando detrás de ella, ni hay un huso de oro destinado al fino dedo que tantea la luz.
     La Princesa emerge blanca en el terrado, pero por esta vez falla y se rompe entre sus manos la vieja historia.
     Ella mira cortada y confundida en torno suyo.
     Bárbara es una princesa desencajada de su cuento, desprendida de su lámina... (115, emphasis mine)

     Bárbara does not complete her symbolic climb to the submissiveness and dependency the patriarchy has reserved for her. Instead, tempted by curiosity about the city, the forbidden world beyond the garden, she has climbed out of the text. The city (civilization) represents Bárbara's longing for freedom, her ansia de alas. The protagonist's rejection of Sleeping Beauty's fate likens her to Eve and to Lot's wife: Había sido ella la mujer curiosa. Como la abuela Eva, había sido curiosa. Como la abuela Eva y como la mujer de Lot. Ella era la tercera mujer curiosa que tendía sus miradas tumultuosas sobre un mundo prohibido (127). Loynaz's appropriation of intertextuality in retelling of Sleeping Beauty establishes the cultural context of the development of Bárbara Niña, the female child of Jardín. The unexpected turn in the plot -i. e., Bárbara's rebellion- subverts the fairy tale tradition and its message of female submissiveness: En el cuento, la Princesa que sube una escalera no la baja más... Pero ella [Bárbara] está demasiado lejos del cuento... Había visto la ciudad... (123).

     Another example of intertextuality arises when Bárbara leaves the house to explore the garden, discovers and enters a lodge in the garden, and opens a wooden trunk inside which is a locked cofrecillo, containing old love letters written by A. Numerous letters and fragments of love letters are interjected in the novel through Bárbara's reading of these texts. This section -the third of the novel's five major sections, constitutes the structural core of Jardín. It also contains an important scene in which the protagonist sees her reflection in the mirror for the first time: Ella también era hermosa... No lo había sabido hasta aquel momento. Los espejos estremecidos le devolvían una imagen suya que aún no conocía. Se veía con el asombro virginal y extático de una flor que se abre sobre el agua... (139). In this moment of self-discovery, Bárbara Se saludó a sí misma (139). In my view, these letters connect with a (male) literary convention which, in placing woman on a pedestal, represent women merely as unspeaking and unfeeling objects of men's desire -objects to be conquered and possessed.

     Although the letters were intended for an ancestor of Bárbara's, the use of the same name for the two women, the juxtaposition of past and present, and the dream-like quality of the novel contribute to a blurring of identities. Through her reading of the letters, Bárbara experiences love for the first time. However, her reaction to the letters undergoes a dramatic transformation. A close reading of these letters reveals that these romantic texts embody the concept of male dominance and female subjugation: Yo te guardaré, amada mía... seré yo, el muro, yo, seré el arca segura... (168). The reader learns from the man's references to them that Bárbara's ancestor did write letters of which -significantly- no physical record remains: Antes de leer tus cartas, salvo de mi impaciencia unos minutos para mirarlas... (159). Because there are no letters authored by the woman, the reader must deduce her feelings (her voice) from the omniscient narrator's commentary to the male-authored letters: No hay cartas de ella; pero Bárbara presiente... su miedo obscuro... la escondida ansia de escapar... (182). The following remarks, for example, accompany a letter in which A asks his beloved for forgiveness: [423]

           Aquella era una carta para pedir perdón, y, sin embargo, aun pidiendo, aun mendigando siempre, tenía el gesto magnífico, imperativo el ruego; pedía como mandando que se le diera, consciente de su obscuro derecho y al mismo tiempo despreciador de todos los derechos, sin excepción del suyo propio, del cual presciende a veces con un arrogante aplomo, con una serena, admirable confianza en sí mismo, en su fuerza desconocida, en su fatal dominación de la mujer. (180, emphasis mine)           

     The woman who is the object of A's passion does not exist as herself but rather as a male construct, an idealized image. As such she is the (textual) creation of the author of these letters. The concept of woman as a male creation (like Eve, born of man) is expressed in the letters found by Bárbara. The man compares his beloved with the written text -he thus derives sensual pleasure from the physical contact with her letters:

                                Yo gozo de tus cartas como tú misma, que las creas; es el pequeño placer, los mil pequeños placeres ciertamente físicos que acompañan a una carta tuya... en el ligero ruido del sobre al rasgarse... en el frote sensual casi de las yemas sobre el papel de Holanda, aterciopelado y frío como tu piel; en el deslizar el dedo sobre la trama azulosa de tu escritura, que tan bien recuerda la de las venas de tus sienes... (160)                      

     A regards the woman as created by and for him, as revealed in a letter written when he becomes aware of her desire to free herself:

                        Yo tiemblo ante ti como debió de temblar el primer hombre ante la primera mujer de la Creación.                   
     Eres como un prodigio que no acierto a entender que haya salido de mí mismo y sólo para endulzar mi soledad.
     Pero así ha sido y así tengo que entenderlo, y tú también conmigo, aunque te sientas ahora llena de fuerza propia y desprendida de mi costado. (183, emphasis mine)

     Bárbara's eventual rejection of the male-authored letters which increasingly oppress her, and her decision to escape from the garden substantiate the conclusion that these texts and the garden symbolize patriarchal dominance. The male author of the letters and the garden are the same, as Bárbara comes to realize: Jardín, jardín también es él... es él mismo (185). In other words, the garden of Jardín represents the patriarchal text which frames Bárbara's (and, by extension, female) existence. Loynaz's garden, then, is a male-authored text which imprisons the female protagonist and from which she longs to escape. This interpretation is supported by Dulce María Loynaz's assertion that the garden speaks through the authorial (male) voice of the letters: Para hacer hablar el jardín... tuve que recurrir al lenguaje de un muerto, es decir a las cartas que deslumbran a Bárbara. No había otro modo de hacerlo (Conversación con Dulce María Loynaz Simón 56). There is a symbiotic relationship between the garden and the author of the letters, and Bárbara is a victim of both: Cualquiera que lea con atención notará que hay una especie de simbiosis entre uno y otro; el viejo jardín y el joven tienen los mismos tentáculos para aprisionar a su víctima... (Loynaz, qtd. in Simón 56). In Mi poesía: Autocrítica, a lecture given in 1950 at the Lyceum, Loynaz makes clear the adversarial relationship between Bárbara and the garden:

           el jardín de la novela es más que un escenario, es un personaje, es mejor dicho, el verdadero protagonista de la obra. Así lo siente Bárbara que por un momento intenta luchar con él, lucha verdaderamente dramática por todo lo que tiene ella de física y todo lo que tiene de abstracto el contrincante. Es pues la lucha aquella, vieja como el mundo, de la materia que se rebela contra un yugo invisible y misterioso. (86)           

     After rejecting the letters, vieja historia interrumpida que no se quiere oir más (233), Bárbara opens the doors of the house, todas las puertas tantos años cerradas (228). She accordingly opens the door to life, to possibility, and to autonomy. Bárbara's role as passive reader in the first three major sections of the novel, illustrates the way society construes women as objects. However, she does not remain a victim, as demonstrated by the rage with which Bárbara destroys the garden, prior to abandoning it:

  vieja cólera de su corazón saltó de golpe... llena de ira, con sus manos exasperadas y trágicas, arrancó los arbustos, pisoteó las flores, destrozó las ramas, arrojó piedras al estanque, a los árboles, a los muros; [424]           
...y hasta... los retoños para la primavera próxima, fueron triturados con rabia entre sus dientes... (257) (57)

     Like the fairy tale princess, Bárbara has waited for a man; unlike Sleeping Beauty, she awakens to life on her own. Bárbara leaves the house to encounter a sailor whose boat, the Euryanthe, has been thrown off course by a tempest. But she soon realizes that he is not the Prince in the fairy tale: Se había equivocado: no era el que ella esperaba... A quién esperó ella? Y continuó su camino sin pensar mucho y sin volver ya a deternerse (227). The sailor nonetheless represents a means to freedom and may be viewed as that part of herself that awakens conventional girlhood to the possibility of life and action: Ha sido necesario que él viniera, que le enseñara que no tenía grillos en los pies ni un signo escrito en la frente (238). Bárbara's longing for freedom is intensified, Sí, ella quería ser libre; quería mover los pies y ensanchar su horizonte... (260) and her escape with the sailor initiates a voyage, a new stage in her quest: Bárbara's entrance into the world. It has been suggested that Bárbara manipulates love (the sailor) as a means toward achieving her own liberation (Isabel Castellanos, p. c.): Que el amor le fuera ala y no cadena. Que le fuera camino en vez de puerta cerrada cuya enmohecida llave se arrojó al mar (260).

     Significantly, Bárbara is not driven from the Garden, but leaves aquella construcción blanca y simétrica con algo de cárcel o manicomio (271) of her own volition: Sí, qué fácil era huir, mucho más fácil de lo que había imaginado (261). In so doing, she symbolically climbs out of the page of patriarchal texts and traditions to become autonomous. In this regard, then, Loynaz's novel may be read as a metaphor for a woman's quest for self-definition, her revolt against patriarchal author[ity], and consequent assertion of her freedom and independence. Loynaz writes in the prefatory remarks to Jardín:

          Tal vez no escribí la poco entretenida historia de Bárbara para que fuese leída, tal vez sólo busque en la aventura un modo vago de liberarla de sí misma, de afirmarle los pies entumecidos en un camino nuevo, sin saber de fijo adónde el camino me la llevaría... (11)           

     A metaphorical reading of this lyrical novel is warranted in an author who is a poet. Loynaz explains that poetry is dispersed throughout the prose of Jardín is como un polvillo de purpurina (Mi poesía: Autocrítica qtd. in Núñez 262), and that poetry carries us from la realidad visible a la invisible que no es menos realidad por eso (Tránsito qtd. in Núñez 267). In her poetry Loynaz has also treated the theme of the internal struggle of a woman who feels imprisoned. Hierro, for instance, is highly evocative of the opening scene of Jardín:

           HIERRO apretado a mi frente             
(allá una espuma ligera...)
Hierro apretado a mi frente
(afuera es la primavera)
Hierro apretado a mi frente
(el amor se va por fuera!...)
Hierro apretado a mi frente,
con los dientes te partiera!...
(From Versos, 1920-1938,
rpt. in Poemas escogidos 60).                 

     Bárbara's entrance into the world, which Cuban author Fina García Marruz has noted corresponds to the biblical Fall (555), is demystified in the final section of the novel: Y así entró Bárbara en el mundo. Así enfiló una calle, traspasó un umbral, encendió una luz eléctrica. Eso es entrar en el mundo (285). (58) Bárbara finally enters the forbidden world beyond the garden: El mundo en que los hombres trabajan fuera del jardín... El mundo de los hombres... Y el de ella también ya!... El de ella, capaz de morder el mundo golosamente como una manzana (289), a world of which she had longed to partake como una manzana prohibida (332). The reader familiar with Western tradition -Eve's disobedience of the Father, the cause of original sin, Eve as bringer of death- approaches the novel expecting Bárbara to be punished for her curiosity, her defiance, and is surprised by the unexpected perspective. When Bárbara enters the world she takes an active role, [425] experiences life fully (travels, has children, experiences war) and finds happiness. Sin and guilt are absent from this account in which the protagonist may be considered a symbol for all women, for she is capable of refracting, of multiplying infinitely -desdoblarse infinitamente sin romperse (322)- to represent all the diverse women of the world: Bárbara... se reconocía en cada una de ellas. Todas eran ella misma repetida... (287).

     The protagonist of Jardín, like Eve, had appeared in the world in a garden: Era el jardín, su jardín; tan suyo, que era toda su patria, todo su espacio, todo su mundo. Junto al Jardín había vivido siempre. En él había crecido, y más que en él, de él mismo. No hubiera sido posible conectarla a una estirpe o identificarla como la hija de éste, exactamente este amor de hombre y mujer... (76). But, unlike Eve, she leaves the garden by choice; Bárbara oversteps her status as a creation in the patriarchal garden when she grasps for the forbidden fruit of the city. By rejecting the submissive role reserved for her -symbolized by Sleeping Beauty- Bárbara ceases to be an object and becomes a subject.

     The final stage of Bárbara's quest is initiated by her nueva curiosidad (316) to visit the place of her youth. She leaves the man with whom she had escaped to civilization, her children, and returns to her garden. The open and ambiguous nature of the work makes possible several interpretations of the final pages of Jardín (see Montero, Simón).

     Bárbara's final journey constitutes a symbolic return to the beginning, to the origin/womb, to the time she lived in the shadows of the garden, prior to entering the world of men: ... volver, reintegrarse al vientre tibio de la sombra sin nacer todavía, sin saber de las luces de los hombres... (335). The inclusion of fragments of the poem entitled The day is done suggests that the cycle is complete, ya estaba todo hecho, todo cumplido (337). The narrator summarizes and evaluates Bárbara's experience in the world:

                Había querido las luces de los hombres y ya no podía librarse de ellas; tampoco los hombres con tantas luces podrían librarse de la sombra que ella les llevara, sombra de vientre femenino, de cólera divina, de jardín anochecido...           
     Verdaderamente, estaba en paz con los hombres; había tenido con ellos y -por su voluntad- un trueque de valores y no había que pensar en devolver lo recibido. (334, emphasis mine)

     The protagonist returns by sailing a boat bearing her name turned into a saint, the Santa Bárbara, to a place that has undergone a transformation. The garden is now a jungle, the house no longer stands, and the moon Bárbara had buried in her garden is found by a construction worker who sees un disco de hojalata recortado en la más perfecta circumferencia (351) and, failing to find any practical use for it, tosses it away.

     The spiral structure of the novel suggests both change and continuity: El mundo ha progresado mucho. Los automóviles siguen pasando verdes, amarillos, rojos... (351). The last scene complements the opening segment of the novel: Bárbara, who looks through the iron bars of the garden gate, has acquired symbolic value. Bárbara is eternal: Bárbara, por detrás, por arriba, por siempre... pega su cara pálida a los barrotes de hierro... (352).

     In conclusion, Jardín, a novel written in the early decades of this century by Cuban author Dulce María Loynaz, presents woman as reader of herself (the experience of woman as represented in male texts) and woman as author of self, as she escapes the confinement of those texts. In Jardín Eve appropriates the power of naming. Two basic mythic masks are woven into the textual fabric of this novel: woman as temptress (Eve) and woman as passive object of male desire (Sleeping Beauty). The protagonist's quest for identity establishes a dialogue with and subverts these patriarchal masks. The incorporation of the love letters written by A mimics and subverts the male literary convention which presents woman as a mysterious, closed, inaccessible (and unspeaking) object of male desire. Intertextuality in Jardín serves to transform the creation story of the Book of Genesis (jardín fue el mundo en sus [426] albores bíblicos) by positioning woman at the center of the garden, of the text, and hence, at the center of creation: como que de una mujer y un jardín le viene la raiz al mundo (10). The protagonist of Jardín, this tercera mujer curiosa, does not suffer the fate of her foremothers, Lot's wife, and Eve. Jardín invites a re-examination of canonical texts while reminding us that los libros, según va ella [Bárbara] comprobando, se equivocan en muchas cosas. Es muy distinta la vida vivida a la vida leída... (296).


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