Oscar Casares (1999), in his short story “Yolanda”, tackles the issues surrounding the evolving role of the female figure within the family as well as within society at large. The discussion of the evolving position of the female figure within the family and society can be seen in the implicit comparison between the positions of the narrator’s partner, Maggie and the narrator’s childhood acquaintance, Yolanda. In line with this, what follows is an analysis of the portrayal of women’s positions within society as can be seen in Oscar Casares’ “Yolanda”.
Presented from the first person point of view of a male character, the text begins with the narrator’s description of his partner, Maggie. He states, Tonight, like most nights, she (Maggie) fell asleep before I was even done brushing my teeth. And now all I can hear are little snores. Sometimes she even talks to herself, shouts out other people’s names, and then in the morning says she can’t remember any of it. Either way, I let her go on sleeping. (30)
This description is followed by his recollection of the events that occurred during his childhood; a period ‘twenty years ago’ which he describes to be a time where “everybody knew everybody… (A time where) you didn’t worry about people stealing shit from you” (Casares 30). The importance of this period on the narrator’s life is evident if one considers that it was during this period that the narrator first experienced the desire for the female body as well as the realization of the harshness of life.
Within the text, it is interesting to note how the narrator’s realization of the harshness of life coincides with his first experience of female desire through the character of Yolanda. Yolanda was a figure from the narrators past. He describes her as a woman with “long black hair, light brown skin, and green eyes;” an image which he describes to be merely seen in the Playboy magazines he found in his parent’s bedroom twenty years ago (Casares 30).
The effect that Yolanda had on the narrator however cannot merely be ascribed to her physical appearance and the passion which this stirred within him. As the narrator recalls the difference of his town twenty years ago, back when he was only sixteen years old, the narrator recounts his first second hand experience of physical abuse. In the text, he recounts how Yolanda was treated by her partner, Frank, an ‘average sized man with thick eyebrows and huge forearms,’ as a woman whose sexual inclinations can only be curbed by relegating her within the house (Casares 30).
He recounts how Frank would not allow Yolanda to work and to fend for herself as Frank argued that “no woman in his family had ever worked behind a cosmetic counter, selling lipstick” and that “she was his princesa now and any place she needed to go, he’d take her, … (She had) no business driving a car around town” (Casares 30). This recollection was followed by his narration of the events that led Yolanda to his bed as Frank slammed Yolanda to the wall after discovering her relationship with the assistant manager of the store (Casares 31).
The text ends with as the narrator reminisces about the final moments when he still possessed his innocence and was unaware of the harshness of the world. He states, In that bed of mine, the one with the Dallas Cowboy pillows and covers, Yolanda and I were safe. We were safe from Frank Castro and safe from anybody else that might try and hurt us. And it was safe for me to fall asleep in Yolanda’s arms, with her warm, beautiful body pressed against mine, and dream that we were riding off to some faraway place on an Appaloosa. (Casares 31)
Within this context, the difference of the portrayal of women’s position within the family and within society at large can be seen in Oscar Casares’ portrayal of the characters of both Maggie and Yolanda as he emphasizes the power that the female figure now possesses within the confines of the family. Note for example that he cannot bother Maggie as opposed to Yolanda whose actions were controlled by Frank. Although one may state that the text presents an account of the liberation of the female figure within the family, it is still important to point out how the female figure is continually seen as a sex symbol within the text.
Although the narrator feels empathy and sympathy for Yolanda, within the text, he continues to perceive her as a sex symbol as he finds solace in the image of Yolanda in his bed twenty years ago and dreams about both of them in the context of the image of the woman in the Playboy magazine that he found in his parents bedroom during his youth. Work Cited Casares, Oscar. “Yolanda. ” The Threepenny Review 76 (Winter 1999): 30-31.