Sandra Cisneros, “Bien Pretty” follows the main character Lupe as she goes through a drastic transformation after meeting and falling for a bug exterminator named Flavio. Lupe originally came to Texas from California trying to escape her old life and her old boyfriend Eddie, after feeling that San Francisco was too small for the both of them. Upon moving to Texas Lupe found a job at the arts center which was unfulfilling and exhausting, making her crave a more fulfilling life.
Lupe went through a dramatic transformation upon meeting Flavio. She describes her typical day at the beginning being somewhat like, “I was putting in sixty-hour work weeks at the arts center. No time left to create art when I came home” (Cisneros 143). Her life at that point amounted to work, beer, potato chips, sleep, and cockroaches. It was the cockroaches that led her to Flavio. Even though Flavio was not portrayed as a good man in the story, the words and ideas he gave Lupe made her come alive throughout the story. Almost instantly her character transformed, she’s given depth and meaning. Cisneros portrays Lupe with a sense of purpose and love. Lupe shows her thoughts about this new life when she says, “This is a powerful time we’re living in. We have to let go of our present way of life and search for our past, remember our destinies, so to speak” (Cisneros 149), Lupe sounds wise when she says these words, as though she has now found the purpose of her life, because with Flavio she has found what she has been searching for. Even though Flavio was a typical man, he was nothing special and noting different, but meant the world to Lupe. She longs for him, he gives her something she had never had before, “He wasn’t pretty unless you were in love with him” (Cisneros 137), and she found him perfect, leading to both love and loss.
Lupe’s character goes on a greater journey however after Flavio leaves. According to the Kubler-Ross model the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Gregory), each of which can be clearly seen in Lupe’s development, ending in her being able to accept herself and the beauty of the world around her.
When Flavio initially breaks the news to Lupe that he must return to Mexico she is caught off-guard and surprised. She is somewhat in denial of what Flavio is saying, she asks, “But you’re coming back. Right?” (Cisneros 156) as though she doesn’t really understand the circumstances by which he is leaving her. However once the news sets in she turns her attention to the starving dog outside the restaurant window. This dog is symbolizing the pain she is currently feeling, she thinks to herself, “Somebody must’ve felt sorry for it and tossed it a last meal, but the kind thing would’ve been to shoot it” (156). Similar to the dog Lupe is feeling the intense pain of Flavio leaving her, and hiding his wives and children from her. She has been strung along now by him and he is letting her go, just like how the dog must be let go.
Following Flavio leaving, Lupe is filled with rage at what he has told her. “I had an uncontrollable desire to drive over to Flavio Munguia’s house with my grandmothers molcajete and bash in his skull”(Cisneros 157). While the anger she is feeling might seem unreasonable, it is a perfectly normal step in the healing process. According to researchers and mental health professionals, “It’s important to truly feel the anger. It’s thought that even though you might seem like you are in an endless cycle of anger, it will dissipate – and the more you truly feel the anger, the more quickly it will dissipate, and the more quickly you will heal” (Gregory). Letting all of her anger and frustration against Flavio out is allowing her to see how she truly feels. Even though Lupe tried to suppress her anger at first it still consumed her, and it was a good sign that she was starting to accept the reality of the situation, and how she really felt towards Flavio leaving and hiding things from her.
In order to tell herself that she is doing well without Flavio she bargains with herself that she never really loved Flavio. Lupe is able to convince herself by saying, “I’d never said I love you. I’d never said it, though the words rattled in my head like urracas in the bamboo” (Cisneros 160). This method is a coping mechanism for Lupe as she denies her love for Flavio, even though she has already said that she felt love towards him earlier in the book. However by bargaining with herself and denying her love she is allowing herself to move on from the emotional situation she is in.
Lupe experiences severe depression after Flavio left her. Characterized by her lack of interest and her turn away from things she normally knew and would do. In the story Lupe states that “The smell of paint was giving me headaches. I couldn’t bring myself to look at my canvases” (Cisnero 161). This reaction towards painting, which she previously found fulfilling, is a characteristic sign of depression, according to the Kubler-Ross model, “ In this stage, you might withdraw from life, feel numb, live in a fog, and not want to get out of bed. The world might seem too much and too overwhelming for you to face”(Gregory). These signs are all present in Lupe during this period of her recovery as she begins turning to telenovelas to fill her time, and escape to the predictable worlds the shows provide her. She became addicted, her life, previously filled with Flavio became consumed by her depression, her days are empty of the liveliness she once had as she ignores the loneliness that haunts her.
Bien Pretty displays how Lupe transforms as a character upon, and after meeting Flavio. However it is not till the final pages that Lupe finally begins to show an acceptance with herself and the world around her. Similar to other stages, Lupe’s acceptance is brought on with a symbolic event. She finds herself continuing on, existing, each day as repetitive as the last, but with the coming of the urracas brings Lupe’s happiness. The birds have their own wild and unpredictable characters and they are able to open her up to the world again. While watching these birds Lupe thinks to herself, “Just because it’s today, today. With no thought of the future or past. Today. Hurray. Hurray!” (165), which shows the progression she has made towards accepting her loss and being able to overcome Flavio and her past and move on. Focusing on the future is an important part of moving on and the urracas are able to bring Lupe this insight, which allows the story to show her progression and give her new life.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. 1st ed., Vintage Contemporaries, 1991.
Gregory, Christina. “Five Stages Of Grief – Understanding the Kubler-Ross Model.” PsyCom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, PSYCOM, 11 Apr. 2019, http://www.psycom.net/depression.central.grief.html.