In this short story of Cleofilas and Juan who are newly married and had just crossed the border of Mexico and the U.S., Cleofilas awaits the passion and romance of marriage, however, it never comes.  Shortly in their marriage, physical abuse begins as Juan being the aggressor and Cleofilas begins to have to remind herself everyday of why she loves this man despite the abuse and her dislikes of his flaws as a man.  Cleofilas returns home from the hospital from what appears to be their second child together and feels at home inside this dangerous marriage, when she enters the house and observes all of her belongings just as she left them after giving birth.  But soon after, she begins to think about her father’s residence where she grew up and thoughts of going home and the idea of leaving Juan began going through her mind.  But she asks herself, “What would the neighbor’s say? Coming home like that with one baby on her hip and one in the oven. Where’s your husband?” (Cisneros 50).  It is not uncommon for one in a dangerous relationship to have second thoughts of leaving it and going where they know is safe, in fear of ridicule from others.

There has been specific research of social networks of those abused and the factors in the final decision for one staying in abusive situations.  From what Kristina Coop Gordon, Shacunda Burton, and Laura Porter have found in “Predicting the Intentions of Women in Domestic Violence Shelters to Return to Partners: Does Forgiveness Play a Role?” is that there is a “combination of demographic variables” (Gordon 331).  In this research approximately 121 women in living in domestic violence shelters, completed a series of questionnaires.  These variables are “woman’s lack of personal income, low potential for obtaining a job, loss of her social support network, and number of children to support” (Gordon 331).  These are in an addition to “pressure from social networks, also have been shown to contribute to internal pressures to remain in abusive situations” (Gordon 331).  In the first group of variables, even shows that when Cleofilas was only not thinking of leaving in general, but to go to her father’s residence instead of making a place for herself and her children to live on her own.  Those first number of variables can be found to relate to Cleofilas thought process.

There is some level of forgiveness that can play a role in the decision making of woman to stay in their abusive relationship as well.  Even before her thoughts of leaving, Cleofilas showed forgiveness to Juan immediately after being abused.  This is shown when, “But when the moment came, and he slapped her once, and then again, and again; until the lip split and bled an orchid of blood” (Cisneros 47) and then later “She could think of nothing to say, said nothing. Just stroked the dark curls of the man who wept and would weep like a child, his tears of repentance and shame, this time and each” (Cisneros 48).  Cleofilas instantly forgives Juan even though she witnesses blood coming from her lip, and this could be the fact that she simply find him responsible for his offensive behavior and also the reason as to why she did not retaliate in violent behavior towards Juan.

At the end of this story, it is eventually shown that Cleofilas built up the strength to leave the abusive relationship, not to say she was weak for staying in one, but she was thinking of staying and attempting to think of the right reasons to stay.  Although, Cleofilas was shown the way to leave, she was still in fear that Juan would find her and was in fear of the result of her leaving.  But once she had already left, the forgiveness seemed to go away for Juan’s violent behavior.  There are many variables and reasons a woman or a man may have for staying in an abusive relationship and it all stems from the word “relationship”.  Each and every one of them have already attributed so much effort, whether it be financially or emotionally, that they may be their biggest fear is losing all that hard time and work in the relationship.  Sometimes, one just needs to be physically shown or someone to say ‘Here let’s go’, to get them out of the relationship.

Once Cleofilas, got in her get-a-way vehicle, it’s almost as if all of her forgiveness for Juan had faded away and she had her eyes set on being able to be independent and focused on the task at hand which was to get back to her father’s residence with her children and keep them safe.  In this relationship of Cleofilas and Juan, there was no future for her, there was no getting better, she was simply just going through the motions and doing what she could to keep Juan’s temper under control.  She also had the safety of her children to think about, when they would need to be disciplined.  It could be possible Juan would go too far or simply observe their marriage and how Juan treated women and think that was the right way to go about things.  Neither the bad example of Juan and possible dangers of abuse on them would be worth her staying for shelter and food in her stomach.

For this literary analysis, it was too hard not see to see two messages with in.  That most people think that it would be so easy to leave an abusive relationship, when it actually isn’t easy, and that one just needs to be shown a path and physically assisted in ways to get them out of that abusive relationship.  When it is only them to think of a way and provide a way when they are not the provider in the family, makes it a little difficult to actually act on a plan or sometimes a dream as most would say to get away from the abuser.  Also, those factors of inability to leave the abuser responsible for his physical abuse, to leave in fear of loss of emotional effort in the relationship, fear of not having the ability to provide for one’s self or children are also factors that go through one’s mind to leave.  In this case, Cleofila’s had shelter at her father’s residence, however, was in fear of the ridicule she would receive from those she grew up around having no husband and two children to raise on her own.  Domestic violence is a serious issue, and a lot of effort comes with making the decision to leave and being able to stick to that decision when times get tough, due to the fact that so much time, effort, and emotions have been put into that relationship or marriage.

If you know someone who may be in this situation, don’t be too quick to judge, if they open up to you, think about how they may need assistance.  Or if observed of one in a dangerous relationship, attempt to show them there are other ways of getting out and is very possible to ensure safety.  The emotional connection not only to that person, but that relationship in itself can be the hardest thing to break free from.  Be aware of domestic violence, be observant, and offer a hand to those in need of assistance.



Works Cited

“Woman Hollering Creek and other short stories”, “Woman Hollering Creek”, Sandra Cisneros. 1991.


“Predicting the Intentions of Women in Domestic Violence Shelters to Return to Partners: Does Forgiveness Play a Role?”. Journal of Family Psychology. Kristina Coop Gordon, Shacunda Burton, and Laura Porter, 2004.