3.7 Paula (Pages 289-330)

23 Jul

By Yosálida C. Rivero-Zaritzky

As Paula’s condition remains the same, family members gather to visit her and support her mother. Ernesto is able to travel for visits. While he is there, he has a dream and, in despair, looks for Isabel during the night to tell her about it. After talking, they perform a farewell ritual, although Isabel is not completely ready for it; a mother never is. She says she has visions and dreams as well, and her health is suffering from all her emotional pain– not only her health, but also her relationship with her husband whose pragmatic minds finds placing Paula in an institution a more reasonable solution than keeping her at home. Nevertheless, he does not articulate such thoughts because it would only serve to separate him from his wife.

Isabel refers then to the time they both met. As she mentioned before, his life was a novel, a fact she suspected at their first encounter, when she ended up spending the night in his house and leaving the next morning for Venezuela. It was an unusual farewell; after what was supposed to be a one night stand, she asked him to commit to a relationship, arguing that she was 44 years old and had no time to play around. Once she arrives in Venezuela and informs her son about it, he laughs and tells her to go back for a week to get Willie out of her system. She does, but she does not come back. She stays in San Francisco until the present.

She went back to Chile with her husband, Willie, for the plebiscite scheduled by Pinochet. Pinochet wanted to create the impression that his regime was democratic. Blinded by power and accustomed to the silence he had imposed on the citizens, he unwittingly set a trap for himself. The campaign against him was called NO. SÍ was for him to stay in power and NO was to call for elections in a year. This campaign had very little exposure, only 15 minutes a day on public television at a time when everybody would be sleeping. This campaign was very creative and in the end won. As result, the following year Chile had the elections that took Pinochet out of the presidency.

Trailer from the movie NO based on the campaign that overthrew Pinochet in 1989.

One morning Allende noticed her daughter’s condition had drastically changed. Her mother and she got together in Paula’s room and started to say goodbye. Other members of the family came by without being warned, just because they felt they needed to be there. With laughs and tears, they reminisced about Paula’s life and stayed with her until she parted.

Of these three books, this one is closest to my heart. First because I am a mother of two little girls, and also because I am an immigrant. As a mother there is no greater fear that seeing a daughter or a son suffer, or worst of all, die. The first time I read Paula, I was single and without children. This time it has been harder to read and my experience with the book has been different.

As an immigrant, the book reminds me of lost relationships, a lack of contact with the land, extended family, traditions and history, and the sentiment that with the years I have become a foreigner both here and in my native country. One lays down new roots, but there is always the question of what could have been.

I am Venezuelan. I have not been in my country for 12 years, and I will end the hiatus this coming week when I travel there. I am not ready for what I will find. For certain, it is not the same country I left or grew up in. I smiled at Allende’s description of Caracas in the 80s because her perception was quite different than mine, and then I inferred that Santiago de Chile was even more mellow. In her own words, it took her a while before she could really understand Venezuelan. I lived there in the period described in the book; I could walk the streets with nothing to fear, and, like Paula, could navigate almost any part of the city without thinking that something might happen to me. That will not be the case now, but I miss family and friends, places and flavors, and I need to return.

As a nation, we Venezuelans are going through a very difficult time politically, and that has given us more political awareness, especially among the youth whose future is now in jeopardy. We are fighting against a new type of dictatorship that calls itself democracy, but reading Paula I look at how Chile got rid of their dictatorship and I am hopeful that we will see better days.


Posted by on July 23, 2013 in 3 Allende


31 responses to “3.7 Paula (Pages 289-330)

  1. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:29 am

    1. What is your opinion about the treatment of terminal patients?

    • dapperpub

      July 23, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Personally I would not want to place the extra burden on my loved ones of having to look after me in a vegetative state for an indeterminable amount of time. In the present day many people have written a clause into their wills and whatnot that state exactly that as well. If the patient has no chance of recovery and is only living via artificial methods then it is more humane to let them die peacefully.

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      I would have to say that I would most likely be with the pro-life sentiment (for rights’ issues); however, I wouldn’t want to waste away into a “vegetable”. I understand why Paula wrote that letter during her honeymoon, and was proud of her because she had the strength and courage to face death and embrace it when the time comes; instead of trying to keep an empty body living. On the other hand, I feel selfish because I remember when I was young my grandmother passed; and I wanted her to fight because I thought nothing could kill her. I felt betrayed the day she died until I realized how much pain and suffering she had been in. For others, if they have a written plan to “keep trying” that is all fine and well because that is their right — but for me I would rather let my loved ones say goodbye to me.

    • Elizabeth (Betsy) Blakley

      July 23, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      In my opinion, the treatment of terminally ill patients should be most heavily focused around providing as much comfort for the patient as possible. Furthermore, I strongly believe that all treatments should align with the patient’s own beliefs to the best of their caregiver’s ability. In this respect, I believe that Allende’s treatment of her daughter fit with my own opinions very well. Her main goal, once it became clear that Paula would not make a recovery, was to provide her with the most comfortable, joyful life as she possibly could. Not only was she in a positive environment in her mother’s home, but she also had the best medical care that her family and group of medical professionals could provide. Furthermore, once it became clear (thanks to the letter which Paula wrote during her honeymoon) that she did not want to be kept alive once she became brain dead, her family worked in accordance with her wishes. She was able to leave the world in the most whole and dignified way as possible.

  2. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:29 am

    2. What are some of people’s general assumptions about age and love?

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      People usually come to find that their age is always changing, but that love can be eternal and everlasting. The problem is that most would like to think that sex is love, when really what matters most is the people who take you into their hearts and help you struggle through life’s trials. We like to believe that we will never die, that dying is something for other people, and that love is quick and simple. Too many have traveled the short-cut, fast pace, we-are-in-love road — which may can explain for the divorce rates in this country. Love is something that you take slow, and one must have to accept their age, act accordingly, and express yourself positively (no matter how old you are).

    • Marquisse Jackson

      July 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      Most people assume that the guy should be a few years older than the lady. Old men dating younger women is always creepy or perverted in most people’s eyes. Old women dating younger men is more acceptable since the younger male is not being seen as being taken advantage of. So even though society may say to follow your heart, dating or loving outside your age buffer zone is a social no no.

  3. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:30 am

    3. In your opinion, does Allende break rules concerning what a woman should or should not do with her sexuality? Why?

  4. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:30 am

    4. As a student, you most likely have moved to another place to attend college. Has that made you a different person? Have you been able to “write” a new version of yourself by being in a different environment?

    • dapperpub

      July 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      I would say that this is very true. I have just recently returned from studying abroad in Scotland for half of a year and I am a different person for having done so. I went abroad alone and lived in a foreign country very successfully and I loved the experience. You change so much once you leave the comfort of home and usually it is for the better.

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Coming to Macon, buying a house, and getting an extensive education has definitely changed the person I was, and has morphed me into a more responsible and caring person. Getting out on my own has allowed me to find the independence I wanted, and also lead the life that makes me happy. If I had not moved, I would be working on a farm with biased views — but now, I am definitely more liberal and understanding and am truly happy. I have found where I want to be in this stage of my life, but I owe it all to moving to Macon to go to Mercer. I met my future wife here, got a wonderful place with tons of friends, and live in a community that cares for each other. None of who I am would exist today if I had not taken the chance to advance myself; especially my soul.

    • Tiffany Wright

      July 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      I was the extremely shy person growing up along the Atlantic Ocean. However, after moving to the Middle Georgia area and meeting new people that were the complete opposite than me, I became a wild child. I was outspoken, loud, and to the point. With age yet again, I toned down but still make my point instead sitting idle and letting life pass me by. I would say I went back to being the reserve person to observe the atmosphere first. Then I let my personality shine through when appropriate. 🙂

    • Marquisse Jackson

      July 23, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      I am most likely one of the rare few that didn’t change going to college. I have been traveling and working since I was very young and my maturity has helped to not “write” a new version of me, but I have further developed the novel that is my life.

  5. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:30 am

    5. How do you think exile and other personal experiences helped Allende invent a “fresh version” of herself?

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      I think that exile/personal experiences that Isabel had made her a more responsive, more intellectual, and more happy person as she was able to assert her own lifestyle after a while. She was also able to put out her own resistance to the oppression and wrote to fill the void in her life — something that had tried to come out of her since childhood. It was a “fresh” version after she met Willie and immediately grasped what she wanted from life (Willie), and making her surroundings comfortable for her and her “destined” love. She has become one of the greatest feminine writers of our time and I do not think she could have done so without being exiled and forced into certian situations.

  6. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:31 am

    6. In general, in the United States people move from place to place often. If this is your case, have you ever felt you are “without roots?” Does place have a role in how you build your identity?

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Place does have a role in my identity because I have always lived in the State of Georgia. I have been all over the world, but my home is in this hot, muggy place where I have grown. I relate to my English and German heritage, and our family has traced our ancestral line all the way back to the Northern Mountains of Germany with a coat of arms. Growing up, the family taught these things to all of the children and we have taken pride in where we came from, how our family developed/prospered, and how we have come to call “Georgia” our home. Even with my move to Macon, I am still close to my family and am in the heart of the state that I love. It allows me to become apart of different communities across the state and even helps me identify with other people in the same area.

  7. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:31 am

    7. Here in the South people tend to avoid being direct. What do you think about her way of handling her relationship with Willie? Would you dare to be that bold?

    • dapperpub

      July 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      I was very astonished with her actions and personally I would be very taken aback if this was directed at me. I could never be as direct as she is, but maybe if everyone was more direct then things would be less complicated. In our culture we like to tip toe around the issue so as not to hurt feelings, but sometimes you have to be direct; that being said I could not do it.

    • Tiffany Wright

      July 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      I was influenced by my grandmother mostly, and she instilled in me the old school traditions of courting. A man should seek out the woman and she is to wait until he proposes. I know times have changed and women are going after what they want because men are becoming more and more shy, but I’m still willing to wait for that special one to come around. Allende have always been bold and went after what she wanted no matter what the risks were. If you are comfortable in the way you approach relationships rather bold or shy then be you and don’t let anyone change you. For Allende and Willie, he was just shocked I think and really wanted to marry Allende, but had a lot of hurt that was holding him back. Therefore, Allende had to make the first move or it may have never come in the time frame she would have expected.

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      I am one of those oddballs who are usually direct in the first place, unless chit-chat comes up when in the company of close friends or family. I guess reflecting more upon my habits I do see some of that idle conversation that puts a smile on some people’s faces before me make a transaction, talk over a specific subject, or ask for favors. A communal way of life is what I live, but I like to be punctual as well and take care of the business at hand. I have been that bold on some occasions, and that is the only reason why I am 22, happily in a long-term relationship, own my own home, and continue my education. The way she snagged Willie is actually quite similar to the way that I asked my love to get in a formal relationship; as I am to shy to carry on for a long-time trying to give signs.

    • niyati

      July 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      I believe that people need to be more direct. Directness avoids confusion of any kind. A relationship it self is a confusing arrangement in the first place and Isabel being direct with Willie shows that she is strong and knows what she wants. I would not be that bold, I would back out at the last time. Directness, even though good can a downfall because you might get an answer that you were not prepared for or like.

    • Marquisse Jackson

      July 23, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      In today’s courtships, it is very rare to find a woman who will make a stand and force the guy to decide what type of relationship it will be. Most are scared of losing him and being labeled as crazy. As a guy I have had to be that bold a few times, but I will admit, it doesn’t always turn out like Mrs. Allende.

      • YR-Z

        July 23, 2013 at 11:52 pm

        I have to confess that I did something similar. My husband was reading the post over my shoulder and laughed and pointed to your comment as if to say “I know someone that rare.” 🙂

  8. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:31 am

    8. Allende left her country for political reasons. She was involved and persecuted. You may not be harassed to the same extent she was, but have you ever felt the need to be engaged in a political cause? What if friends and family do not agree with that cause?

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      I am more political than anyone in my close family, and even my friends and I debate about the way things are going on the community, city, state, national, and world-levels. We try to help people and join causes that could help others. For example, I am an Eagle Scout, was in the Order of DeMolay, am becoming a Freemason, am a alumni of Pi Kappa Phi, and am in 12 community organizations and clubs to benefit the area. My friends and family accept me for who I am because they know I am somewhat of a stubborn/head-strong person who usually advocates for human/private rights; as well as educational and aid programs to people with disabilities (Push America and the Ronald McDonald House in Macon).

  9. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:31 am

    9. Allende had a particular perception of the United States. What was it and did it change? How and why do you think that happened?

    • Tiffany Wright

      July 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      In the beginning Allende didn’t want to associate with the United States because they had supported the coup in Chile. However, after spending some time within the United States she was able to see the country as a whole and accept the United States. She loves the United States as her home now.

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      America was evil to Isabel at first because it was the hegemonic power that backed the military coup and put Pinochet into place (even though Isabel’s uncle was a democratically-elected Marxist). However, she found a love that finally complimented hers and a place in Northern California that looked, felt, and smelt like Chile; giving her an adopted place to live that she has come to love. She understands the causes of the coup, still feels the pain, but finds a new family in the Bay-side home that she creates with Willie (her family, his, and the extended family they collect over the years).

  10. YR-Z

    July 23, 2013 at 12:32 am

    10. How does Allende perceive the writing process?

    • Jake Lankford

      July 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      Writing is something that pours out to you or either serves an emotional/spiritual purpose/journey to a person. Everything is put on paper, and the novel/story develops and takes life of its own. This is what keeps the readers interested; as she also knows that the unexpected and controversial can make-or-break a story. Through her experiences, she is able to play them out through her characters inside her books as they come to represent the people and trials that she has had to deal with in her life. These ingredients (plus a little fib/exaggeration every now-and-again) make stories that pull at your heartstrings and captivate the spiritual/emotional feelings that entice the soul to wonder and explore.


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