By Yosálida C. Rivero-Zaritzky
Several years pass and Rita is now considering a career. While the couple talks about it, Antoni tells Natalia how happy he has been since she and her children came into his life all those years past. As Natalia grows old, sometimes she confuses dreams and reality, events that truly happened and those that she imagined. The story of the doves reappears in a different light and is retold by other ladies she talks to during her walks to the parks. She is still somehow nervous about being on busy streets, but she is able to navigate the streets and enjoy her walks by examining details that would go unnoticed by other people.
Natalia and Antoni also talk to Toni about a profession, but to their surprise, he wants to help with the store and be a grocer. He says he is a practical person, and later on he will decide to serve in the army in Barcelona close to his house.
Rita’s future is once again the center of discussion when Vincenc, the owner of the corner bar, comes to the house to ask for her hand in marriage. But Rita does not seem interested in the idea because she wants to see the world before she commits to starting a family. Vincenc’s perseverance wins over the family and then Rita. After a conflicted courtship, she marries him. Their wedding coincides with Natalia and Antoni’s wedding anniversary, and they celebrate it together.
Natalia wakes up early in the morning and decides to leave the house for a walk. Afterwards, she feels she has expelled something that has been drowning her for years and she can breathe and she can actually begin to experience happiness.
Memory plays an important part in this last section. Natalia still is trying to make sense of her life. For many years she was unable to do so. Thinking about certain things was simply too painful; remembering was even worse. She needed to survive and, in order to do so, she had to repress memories and channel her efforts to keep her family alive. There are two moments in the novel when her gaze has a special meaning. The first time is when she is walking to the grocery to buy the acid to kill herself and her children and she looks at her surroundings as if she is noticing them for the first and last time, trying to absorb everything and then take it with her. The second time is in chapter 43 when she gives descriptions of interior parts of different houses–spaces commonly identified with the feminine world. In a certain respect, she is trying to get at the heart of each intimate space, a metaphor of her own heart.
I am curious to know what you have to say about the part when Vincenc asks for Rita’s hand in marriage, so please answer that question below. Afterwards I may make additional comments. I should also make a cultural clarification. A bar in Spain is not the same as it is here in the United States. In Spain a bar is pretty much a restaurant where families can go at any time of the day or night–yes, children go there too. On the other hand, in Latin America working in a bar is often considered a job of ill repute.
My favorite passage in this part is when Natalia makes this insight about the nature of time: “the time inside me, the time you can’t see but it molds us. The time that rolls on and on in people’s hearts and makes them roll along with it and gradually changes us inside and out and makes us what we’ll be on our dying day.” (183-84) When we are young, we think little about such things, but as we gain “experience” it’s easier to look back and see how much we have changed and how we have become who we now are.
I hope you have enjoyed this book. I have to say that the first time I read it I thought it was ok, but with time I gained a greater appreciation for it. This time, for instance, I laughed out loud at some parts, and cried at others, maybe because I now have children of my own and I could not imagine having to suffer similar situations. When I went to Barcelona last summer I wanted to visit the places Rodoreda mentions in her novel. I could not make it to all of them, but as I was getting to know some of those places, the book came alive for me.