For centuries, gender roles have played a major role in society. Women had very little to no say in anything. In the story “Woman Hollering Creek,” gender roles are put into play. Along with the fantasy of living the life of a telenovela in which the protagonist, Cleofilas, sets to base her decisions on, her husband Juan Pedro does not fail to live up to expectations. Much like in telenovelas, there is always that one character in which seems to cause the majority of the problems; this character very much resembles Juan. In the story, Juan assigns Cleofilas the role of the housewife which does not have any say in what can be done. Like the stereotype of the woman being the vulnerable one in the relationship, Cleofilas fits just that. Juan does not fall behind in being the abusive and macho type figure. Machismo would be a much better character trait that runs throughout the story. All these aspects fit perfectly, much like a puzzle into those of a telenovela. The notion of fantasy land, machismo and gender roles greatly describes Cleofilas’ life. 


Nothing good can ever come from living in a fantasy land. From living one’s life with false hope to leading someone to one of the most dangerous of situations. Cleofilas attempts to live the life of a telenovela protagonist. Just as in telenovelas, the protagonist seems to be constantly running into obstacles. In Cleofilas’ case, Juan seems to always cause her harm. Not only does he drag her away from her family, but leads her straight to danger. The abusive side that came to characterize Juan, was not a good sight for Cleofilas. Although a sort of happy ending does occur when Felice saves her and helps her get away from her abusive husband, nothing good ever comes from living in a fantasy land.

In the beginning of the story, Cleofilas’ father, Don Serafin, expressed something very important to her. “I am your father. I will never abandon you” (Cisneros 43) he expressed. However it turned out to be that it was not the father that broke his promise of never abandoning her, rather it was Clefilas who fled the scene. After Cleofilas’ husband, Juan Pedro, seeked permission from her father to take her hand in marriage, they rapidly fled. Similar to those traits of today’s society, the man usually makes the decisions on behalf of him and his partner. After leaving her family behind, Cleofilas was forced to start a new life. Her telenovela fantasy did not seem totally out of reach anymore. As usual, the telenovelas seen on tv never forgot to include the story’s villain which nobody seemed to distinguish from everyone else. In Cleofilas’ fantasy, the villain was right in front of her. After bareing Juan Pedro’s son, Juan Pedrito, his personality took a sharp turn for the worst. Removing one’s self from one country to the next is never easy. Especially when one does not know the language of the country they are in. After finding work, Juan Pedro seemed to be a really hard working character but also started to become the abusive partner. After long hours of work, he came home tired and frustrated drinking away his what seemed to be depression, he found a new way to remove steam. Turning to Cleofilas, things quickly turned to the dark side as Juan swung away towards her. She did not make the slightest attempt to defend herself because of the fact she wanted to like in her telenovela fantasy. She never sees the person being abused defend herself, so she just let it come to her. The macho type charisma seemed to be taking over Juan. He resembles the stereotypical man of the household taking control of the situation no matter what others may think. Taking advantage of the vulnerable and defenceless Cleofilas, Juan was at control. “…..he slapped her once, and then again, and again; until the lip split and bled an orchid of blood,she didn’t fight back, she didn’t break into tears, she didn’t run away as she imagined she might when she saw such things in the telenovelas” (Cisneros 47). Just as it seemed that Juan let his manliness take over, he quickly turned into the full of emotion man who turned to Cleofilas to apologize just after he beat her forcefully. This happened over and over and over. 

abused woman lebanon

What seems to be the welcoming of a second child, a doctor visit seems to be in order. The only thing that seemed to be getting in the way was the extreme bruising Cleofilas was suffering from the beatings inflicted by Juan. Juan did not let her go to a doctor’s visit due to the fear he had that someone might assume something due to her many bruises. Cleofilas had to beg and beg. “But please, at least for the doctors visit.” (Cisneros 53) It seemed as if Cleofilas was anxious and needy for this doctor’s visit. She made it appear as if she knew something was going to happen. This course of action taken by Cleofilas is really similar to the environment provided by Saudi Arabia. Women are not allowed to travel or even apply for a passport without the approval of their male guardian (“Saudi Arabia…..”). Women do not have an ounce of freedom. It was not until 1955 that a school for women was established and in 1970 that the first university for women was established in Saudi Arabia (“Women’s Rights in Saudi….”). Much like Saudi Arabian women, Cleofilas is not allowed to go anywhere without permission of Juan.

In the story, Cleofilas does not only live in a roller coaster filled with its ups and downs but most likely came out with some life lessons. In a world filled with machismo, gender roles and attempting to live in the aspects of a fantasy, Cleofilas seems to maneuver just fine. “Woman Hollering Creek” has not only demonstrated the paths of many women but also adds a pint of Sandra Cisneros’ Mexican Culture.

Works Cited

Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek. Bloomsbury, 2004.

Deutsche Welle. “Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia: A Timeline: DW: 07.01.2019.” DW.COM,

“Saudi Arabia: 10 Reasons Why Women Flee.” Human Rights Watch, 30 Jan. 2019,