A man once said, “Insanity is the act of doing something over and over again expecting different results.” This man was Albert Einstein. While this is not completely true it does bring to light one of the key causes of the disorder, repetition. In the short story “Never Marry a Mexican”, by Sandra Cisneros, the main character acts irrationally and shows signs of having a mental illness due to her constant and consistent repetitive actions in a desperate search for love. She is constantly falling in love with men who are or get married soon after they get attached, and one in particular, Drew, seems to have triggered a mental breakdown in her mind, because she loved him from a younger age, leading her to a depression like state when she is not around him and hostility towards his wife for her part in his leaving her. When his son turns eighteen, she sleeps with him as a vengeance for taking Drew’s love away from her. Her early childhood played a role in this as she built her opinions off of her mother’s who married to a man she left on his deathbed for another, putting her off from marriage as a whole as she never wanted to be hurt or left alone like that.
Our main character Clemencia is a woman who majors in art that gets in sexual relationships due to events in childhood giving her reasons to not marry. One her fears is that the one she loves will leave her someday, either through death or an affair, because her father had died in a hospital while her mother slept with another man. “She says that she never saw Mexican men, or Latin men of any sort, as potential lovers, yet she considers her mother to be the true traitor because she married a white man almost immediately after the death of Clemencia’s father.”(Modern Malinche).This event gives her a reason to not marry through the fear that she will lose a husband and is probably the reason why she said, “Marriage has failed me.”(Cisneros 69).Her mother told her never marry a Mexican but she took it as never marry because the limitations of love and the thought of losing a loved one was much worse than marrying for any reason. As well as showing that one or even both of the couple can break vows at any point nullifying the “sacred bond” created by the ceremony. Her childhood played a big part in her later opinions acting as a bias towards getting married and when a relationship does start she does not go through with it preferring to be a mistress.
Later on in her life she meets up again with Drew becoming intimate with him and avoiding his wife creating problems for herself and him. “ while his mother lay on her back laboring his birth, I lay in his mother’s bed making love to you.”(Cisneros 75). Drew was in love with our protagonists at some point, whether it was love or attraction was never specified, but she loved him and viewed him as someone who would never leave her. Later on he married creating a schism between the two leading to his affair with her where she did this until he told her it was over. She defaced some of the wife’s makeup and trinkets with gummy bears, being the target of her self rage. 18 years later she bedded his son hoping for the same feeling, but while it was there it was not the same. It sent her into a deep depression that made her wish to be in actual relations with someone, rather than just be a tool for sex.
She said, “Human beings pass me on the street, I want to reach out and strum them as if they were guitars.”(Cisneros 83). Being this way she views relationships as something you can touch like a guitar string, some are just merely plucked quickly uttering a sound and moved on with and forgotten, but some are stroked for a long note creating a unique sound that you will never forget. She has done the first of the two but badly yearns for the other, seeing that she has only ever interfered in other people’s relationships rather than make her own. She labels herself as crazy but she’s not really, she is just obsessed with people’s lives and jealous of relationships she’s not allowing herself to have. In another story by Cisneros two people make the same trips through daily life with fear to change their normal schedule, both going to the same bar on every other Friday looking for love but never see each other because they go on different Fridays, crying to the moon at their unsuccessful night.(Cisneros 133-134). The dramatic irony being they are looking for eachother but can never see each other due to bad timing and fear of change. Clemencia goes through the same fear to stray from the norm and so she can never truly leave her state of depression and repeats the cycle in hope for a change.
The significance of this character’s feelings and actions are enough to keep her in a trapped frame of mind not willing to change, her childhood trauma and her experience of losing her love to another have kept her from meeting new people on any level higher than sexually. “Female patients more than male patients had their mental illnesses attributed to their domestic circumstances: the poverty of their home lives, grief over the death of friends and family, love and marital relationships gone wrong, and violence in their homes.”(Clark-Levine). She is experiencing or has experienced most of these traumatic events and although this quote is for the age of the 1830’s it still holds true to this day and their insanity in that age could be compared with what Clemencia is having in this story. Whether it is insanity or just acting out is up for debate but the evidence strongly leans towards her having a lower form of insanity, her lack of a relationship acting as a catalyst for her actions. If there is no emotion in sex then there is nothing to lose giving her no reason to stop continuing her journey for more, getting just a bit of emotion from the relationship as a side effect. She has done the same thing for years because she wants love but doesn’t want the loss and will continue with repeating this process expecting different results each time.
Cisneros, Sandra Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. Random House,1991.
Levine-Clark, “DYSFUNCTIONAL DOMESTICITY: FEMALE INSANITY AND FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS AMONG THE WEST RIDING POOR IN THE MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY.” Marjorie Journal of Family History, Jul 2000, Vol. 25 Issue 3, p341. 21p.
Fitts, Alexandra “Sandra Cisneros’s Modern Malinche: A Reconsideration of Feminine Archetypes in Woman Hollering Creek.” International Fiction Review, Volume 29, Numbers 1 and 2 (2002)
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