Sinclair Lit:The Kiss of the Spider Women
What is happening as the novel opens? What details are we given about the characters and the setting? What details AREN'T we given? Speculate (give us your best guess!) about why the novel opens the way it does.
The Kiss of the Spider Women opens to Molina telling Valentin about a film he had seen before he was arrested. In the beginning of the book Manuel Puig gradually describes the main characters, Molina and Valentin. We learn that Molina and Valentin are imprisoned in a cell together. Puig tells us that Molina was arrested for corruption of minors and Valentin arrested for being a Marxist political activist. We learn that Molina is in love with a male waiter. The waiter, Gabriel, is married and feels only platonic friendship towards Molina. Molina is a thirty-seven-year old man who views himself as a woman instead of a man. Valentin was in a relationship with a woman before he was arrested. The only thing we really know about her is that she is twenty-four, a revolutionary, and comes from a bourgeois family.
Puig withholds details that would make it easier to understand the book. For example we do not know where the main characters are imprisoned. We are not told what Valentin’s girl’s name is or what she currently does for a job. We don’t know why Molina and Valentin are imprisoned together or for how long. We are also specifically not told the reason for each arrest, just a broad reason.
I believe that the novel opens the way it does to make it different from most novels. I believe Puig did this in order to draw the reader into the story. He wants the reader to have questions and to keep reading to find the answers. Authors don’t traditionally open a book by describing a movie. Books in general normally focus on what the author writes. They do not normally write about anyone else’s work. In this case it gives the novel suspense because not only do we want to know why the movie is being told, but also how the movie ends. I feel that we are informed about the movie because it allows us to learn about the main characters based upon who they identify the most with from the movie.
How do Valentin and Molina differ in how they think about movies? Give examples to prove your point. Which of their two views is closer to how you think about movies? Why?
The main difference in how Molina and Valentin view the films is logic vs. emotion. Molina sees the romantic side to each film; he looks at the characters and likes or dislikes them based on their temperaments. Valentin sees the logic; for him everything needs to be able to be explained.
Molina sees the emotional side of the films. Molina says, “But it was sad, as if someone had lost a true love and just wanted to give up now but she can’t, and she leaves it all in the hands of fate”(Puig 73). In the German movie, Molina goes out of his way to describe one of Leni’s shows. Since the songs she sang were not translated, Molina tells Valentin his own interpretation of the scene. Molina’s interpretation shows that he views the films in a romantic light. He talks about notions such as true love and the hands of fate.
Valentin thinks about logic in the movies. One example of this is when Molina is telling about the German movie, the one with Leni and the German officer. Valentin and Molina converse, “—Then it is a German garden… Saxon, to be exact. – How do you know? -- Because French garden use lots of flowers, and even though the arrangements are geometrical they tend to be much more casual-looking. That garden sounds German, plus the film was obviously made in Germany…” (Puig 76). In the above passage Valentin deduces that the garden from the film was a German garden, not a French one, based on how Molina described it to him. This shows that Valentin likes to look at each film logically rather than just emotionally like Molina does.
My personal views are closer to Valentin than to Molina. When I think of movies I can appreciate romance and emotion in a film, but these have never been topics I focus on in a movie. I am closer to Valentin’s view because I like to see the logic and reasoning behind the movie. I also agree more with Valentin’s views about women and men being equal. There are instances where Molina seems to prefer it when women are seen as less than equal to men. At one point Molina calls Valentin a fag because he knows about art and gardening, topics that Molina considers to be “women’s stuff”.
What new information do we learn in Chapter 8, and does it change your view of the characters? How?
In Chapter Eight of the Kiss of the Spider Woman we learn more about Molina and Valentin. It turns out that Molina is working with the Warden to gather information from Valentin in exchange for a pardon for his crime. Molina also knew that the reason that Valentin was sick was that the rice was drugged in an attempt to loosen Valentin’s tongue. Molina ate the bigger portion of rice anyway so as to avoid making Valentin suspicious. We also learn that Valentin was arrested by the National Guard outside of Barrancas. Valentin was involved in “promoting disturbances with strikers at two automotive assembly plants” (Puig 148).
This information changes how I view Molina and Valentin. I originally thought that Molina was telling Valentin about different movies he had seen to pass the time. I now think that Molina was telling Valentin about different films in order to gain his friendship and trust so that he could pass on information to the Warden in exchange for his pardon. I view Valentin differently because I now know that he was arrested not merely for political reasons, because he specifically decided to go out and cause a disturbance with his fellow activists.
Discuss the ending. What does Molina do at the end of the novel, and what is the result? Does this novel have a hero? What happens to Valentin? Is the novel's ending happy or sad?
The Kiss of the Spiderwoman ends with Molina being released from prison on parole and followed by government agents from CISL. Molina had agreed to pass on Valentin’s message to his fellow revolutionists. Molina spends the first two weeks or so getting reacquainted with family and friends and acquiring a job as a window dresser. On the first day of his new job, Molina goes outside and uses a payphone to call Valentin’s revolutionists. The fact that Molina goes leaves the building in order to use a payphone instead of the one in his workplace tips the government agents off that something is going on. The revolutionists shoot and kill Molina as he is about to be apprehended by two CISL agents to prevent Molina from being interrogated for information.
After Molina is released on parole, Valentin is brutally interrogated and starved back in the prison. Valentin is secretly given a dose of morphine by a sympathetic nurse in the infirmary. Valentin drifts off into sleep. Puig then tells us about Valentin’s dreams or hallucinations. Valentin dreams of Marta and escaping prison and of being on a beach. I think that Valentin may have died in his sleep because of the mention of a tunnel with a light at the end. A tunnel with a light is normally something that is meant to be synonymous with either death or someone coming close to death.
I feel that the Kiss of the Spider Woman did not have a hero. To have a hero, a novel needs to have some type of victory or struggle. The Kiss of the Spider Woman did not have a character that emerged victorious or faced some type of struggle and came out on top. Molina could have been a hero if the revolutionaries were portrayed as the good guys of the novel, but they were not the good guys, and even if they were, Molina would have failed. Molina never actually gave the revolutionaries any type of message from Valentin. The Kiss of the Spider Woman had a sad ending with Molina dead and Valentin in a morphine induced coma or dead.