Analysis of the Short Story Magnificence by Estrella Alfon
(This is an analysis of the short story Magnificence by Estrella Alfon. It is a stylistic analysis, specifically a feminist and gender oriented semantic analysis. It is based on my paper entitled "Taming Man in 'Magnificence': A Semantic and Gender Analysis" submitted in a Stylistics Class. Please cite properly or contact me for citation purposes.)
The descriptions of the mother and Vicente are contrastive not only against each other but also against stereotypes of their genders. The story opens with Vicente being described as “so gentle, so kind,” a phrase usually used for women. Vicente is a dark “little” man whose “voice [was] soft [and] manner slow.” On the other hand, the mother is a “gloating” mother whose “eyes [held] pride.” She is barely described at the start, as absent as the father except for short delivered lines, which are also in a tone not in sync with stereotype mothers. Only later is the mother completely revealed: a “tall woman” who spoke in a voice “very low, very heavy” and with an “awful timbre.” The contrast emphasizes the darkness of Vicente and the mother’s magnificence.
This contrast is also displayed in the metaphor of light or illumination. At the start, Vicente was described as slowly advancing into the circle of light. During the crucial moment, the mother is “transfigured [by a] glow” (note the connotation of Jesus/God, images of magnificence). She had been “in the shadow” literally, and figuratively, about Vicente’s “queerness” that “crouched” inside him. In her anger, she “advance[s] into the glare of light” and reveals her magnificent self. Vicente is then forced “out of the circle of light” and “into the shadows that ate him up.”
The mother’s sense of control with Vicente is set against her inner disposition once with her daughter. Her touch is “heavy…kneading”, eyes with “angered fire”, her actions “almost frantic.”
The reversal of gender assignments is not only incidental. The story is not just about one magnificent woman but of all women and mothers who have been in shadows but “raise [their] hand[s]” against male abuse. This is shown in how throughout the story the mother is referred to as “mother” but at the moment she was punishing Vicente, she is called “woman.”
When she gets back to her daughter, she is seen as “mother” again, but in exploring her disposition and rage she is again “woman.” Finally, upon calming down, she becomes “mother” and tucks her child in.
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