In both “Vendetta” and “The Schoolteachers Guest”, both stories show that the cultural forces did lead to them taking their revenge, in the most different ways possible, this being affected by their culture and communities as both stories were set in different time scales and different surroundings, vendetta being set in Italy in the 1900’s and the schoolteachers guest being set in the 1800’s in Agua Santa, South America. Both writers portray these very well in the stories interlinking the culture and personal forces with the way the two women got their revenge.
“The Schoolteachers Guest” was written by Isabel Allende and was set in Agua Santa, in the south of America, in the early 1800’s. In the schoolteachers guest the main lead, Ines, was a very headstrong person, determined and a “well respected matron of the community”. Her strong links and family bonding with the community determined her role even more as she was “the towns only schoolteacher”. the writer portrayed Ines as this hard going disciplined woman but also a woman who had a son whom she cared for, this arouses a feeling of love between the mother and son, the writer explains how her son was “the centre of inclination to indulge him” making him first priority in her world but then again disciplining him at the same time.
So that fateful day arrived when her son would be breathing his last, picking up a mango , the mango farmer got wary of this and shot the gun to warn him, only to shoot him in the head. The writer doesn’t say why or what reason the boy picked up the mango for, so it is open to suspicion whether he did it for the good or to just steal it. However the community, because of their close bond with Ines were outraged and wanted to “tear the perpetrator limb from limb”, the mango farmer knew this and “fled, never meaning to return”. Ines, being a spiritual and strong willed person knew that the farmer’s day would soon come too,.
The writer expresses her emotional pain for the loss of her son through anger, making Ines out to be this strong willed person therefore leading her to have such a strong opinion of the mango farmer, that his life will be taken just as he did to her son. to be great believers of fate. The writer shows their anger by them throwing mango’s “which they threw through the window”, In the specific paragraph the writer expresses words of disgust and a gross image in the readers head, saying the mango had “burst open, spilling a viscous juice and impregnating the walls with a golden blood”, this horrific image left after this is expressing the fact that the boy’s death was such that it reflected back into the mango farmer’s own house, saying the juice of the fruit was like blood, almost as if it was the son’s blood on the walls, and just disgracing the mango farmer’s house, because of this dreadful deed he did. And the main man who was fronting this revenge was Riad Halabi.
Riad Halabi was a man who entered Agua Santa the day the boy had been murdered, and funnily enough had been caught up in the murder and was the main one consoling Ines, and the community, even though he knew nothing of the boy himself. Ines’s sons death had determined Halabi’s fate in Agua Santa so he had decided to stay. So in Halabi the writer gives us a leader, this man who had never met Ines’s son still had managed to get into everyone’s lives by being this leader, and preparing things as if “he were a member of the family”. there writer here is making a leader out of a stranger, showing that the death of this beloved boy was a weakness, that the community were very easily let into by someone whom they had never met before, and how Halabi had this quality instinct in him to be this man who people consoled their thoughts and feelings in. This shows the type of community they were also, because of their trust in just about everyone in the community, they had every faith in people who had also entered their lives, especially at this critical point in their lives.
So when the farmers day did come, and It was ironically enough Ines who did the deed by chopping the mango farmers head off, the community were not surprised or at all disappointed , but they celebrated as if it was a joyous occasion and to Ines it was a weight lifted off her shoulders, it was as if her son could finally rest in his grave, and she too could move on. Killing the mango farmer didn’t make Ines a criminal or make her most wanted, but
the community thanked her almost for it, and so she got away with it.
Ines killed the farmer in the most brutal way, showing her ruthless nature through the killing, by chopping his head off she expressed her attitude to revenge. The writer uses a sense of irony, by Ines killing the mango farmer in a execution like killing, this shows Ines feelings about the death of her son, that she remained bitter about this to the point till she killed the mango farmer, and she didn’t feel any remorse for this but just explained this setting as “fate”.
A person who describes this as just fate must be a ruthless killer, who has no respect for the law of justice, but in that time and place justice was a thing only brought through revenge. Ines’s way of killing the mango farmer portrayed her as this woman who did not get over the death of her son, and a cold blooded killer. The writer does not empathise on this but just merely explains the whole avenge in one sentence, “Ines had just cut off the head of a guest in her boarding house”.
What the writer here is trying to aim at is the fact that the community respected Ines to such an extent that her killing someone like this wasn’t such a big issue, because avenging the death of her son was her reason for doing this. The people of Agua Santa sound like a place where people take the law into their own hands, be it justice or not.
The writer here portrays the community as great believers of fate, and Ines justified herself by saying the old man had “very bad luck”. She explains that the mango farmer was driving when a rock shattered his car window, and a car window to some people back then symbolized that of a mirror. And tradition of bad luck is that breaking a mirror gives seven years bad luck, and indeed it did. So from this you can tell that the writer is putting across a superstitious element in the story, enhancing the culture with this also. The writer shows minor things such as this to be big things which the community pay careful consideration to, as they believe in such things as this, which comes with the culture.
So Ines’s culture did make a big difference to her actions and the way she took her vengeance, and the community also affected by the culture of their surroundings also made a difference, as the people close to her helped her in killing by encouraging Ines to take her revenge as brutally as she did then. So when word got round that the perpetrator had been killed by none other than Ines herself, people did not judge or stare but celebrate in warmth. It was like a victory for them, had finally taken their vengeance on what they saw as this horrible cold heartless mango farmer who shot one of their own kind.
The people of Agua Santa seem the type of people who just judge people on their looks and how they appear on first hand, as they did with Riad Halabi, he came in at just the right time and consoled the people, and they automatically chose him as a leader person, but with the mango farmer they didn’t and this is their prejudice. They didn’t bother giving the mango farmer a fair trial, but just casted him a ruthless man out to kill innocent boys. It is open to suspicion what the boy’s intentions were about the mango he picked up, but they did not stop to wonder.
So the people of Agua Santa celebrated when they heard the news that the mango farmer was dead, and the writer describes the scene as joyful as there were “more people than on All Saints Day”, a day where people have a remembrance of the dead. The writer here is trying to imply that the boy’s death was symbolic and he was almost like a young innocent saint. As these people wined and dined and became joyful, others in the community were gladly helping in burying the body. The writer says that the people are celebrating the dead, then again burying the dead at the same time, without any remorse, so the writer here is trying to imply that the boy was somewhat of a saint and the mango farmer was just nothing.
Where they buried the body had a hint of irony in it, as it was the place where the mango farmer had committed the act of killing the boy, but it was also to be his grave. It was like a cycle, the whole thing started there, and ended there. The people of the community “returned their salutations with more than ordinary enthusiasm”, while Halabi maintaining his leading role in the community led the way to the farmers burial spot, along with the help from people in the community, who showed signs on gratitude and pride as Ines and Halabi n the rest were doing this.
However vendetta held very different surroundings but still consist of the same concept of getting justice.
Vendetta was set in the 1880’s, and was written by Guy de Maupassant, It was written a while ago where the phrase every man for himself was literally done and used back there, as the life they led was all about the mafia and it being set in Italy, things like that were naturally common. The culture of the area, which was set in Sicily, did affect the old widow’s behaviour towards her taking her revenge on Nicolas Ravolti, the man who killed her son. The vendetta was her promising her son that she would take revenge and the man who killed her son will taste death, as she said while her son was lying dead in her arms, she said “you will be avenged my son”…
The widow Saverini lived in a very deserted area where the writer describes her surroundings as “barren” and “clustered”, she makes it so that it reflects on the widow’s personality, that after living on this barren coast all these years has brushed off on the widow’s behaviour and attitude.
The writer also says that it was a place where “scarcely a ship ventures”, this shows that the woman was old and also alone, the place she lived in didn’t consist of many people living there, but just her and her son. Her culture around her was very isolating, just leaving her living in that little house “overhanging the sea”. The isolation of this woman’s surroundings must’ve made her very self dependant on herself and not rely on others as much and this harsh surroundings was what must’ve moulded her character. The writer here is almost making a philosophical point that the culture people may live in, may affect their nature and the way they are, which is what happened with the widow, in her deserted surroundings.
So as the writer is describing the surroundings, he is also setting the scene for the widow, how her character will be like, we can automatically assume that her surroundings and her personality are both linked. The loneliness and isolation of the place is what made the widow’s self determination grow more, that she felt that it was up to her to fulfil this promise she had made to her son while he was lying dead in her arms. And also because of this love she had for her “poor” and “little” son which drove her energy into becoming this bitter woman living and breathing for revenge. It was a strange sense of vocabulary that the writer used 2 describe the widow’s son, saying he’s “little” when in fact he was a grown man, this here you can tell the writer is trying to arouse sympathy from the reader and create this emotional bond between mother and son.
Nicolas Ravolti (the murderer) “treacherously stabbed” the widows son, and then quickly “escaped that night”, this is very much portraying Nicolas Ravolti as a coward and maybe not of someone who was of much importance. When the widow Saverini saw her beloved boy she just lay there and shed tears, and so then made her promise to him. Her mind frame seems of a clever woman, very determined and not keen to let go of things, but however on the other hand she seems bitter about the death of her son, her attitude towards the death of her son is not what is really expected of a widow but that could also be because of the influence of her surroundings. Her surroundings had a very sinister element to it where ships look like “nests of prey”, so this could also have a big effect on the widows character.
Especially since the woman had no “male relations”, it was up to her to take up this vendetta. Whereas in usual circumstances and by tradition, vendetta meaning revenge, in Italy would usually have been taken up y a male member of family but in the widow’s case there was no family, no relation, no friend of the family to do this, and so this is her dangerous element showing in the story. The writer here is saying that an old woman would be able to take up a vendetta like this, it just shows how much the lifestyle around her had affected her mind.
She accepted the challenge in a attitude which showed that she wasn’t your average lady, she wasn’t very sociable, as she lived in a deserted place, and you could tell with her son’s death that she didn’t have any friends, as when her son got buried, “his name ceased to be mentioned in bonafacio”. It could have been the fact that she just wasn’t a very sociable person, but it also could have been that because of the dangerous element in her, this made the community wary of her and they stayed away, but all that is open to suspicion as the writer didn’t give us any clues on why she may be so lonely. The writer however did lead the culture and community round her and it was like a pathway to her final destructive feature, which was of that to kill Ravolti, so again in this, the culture did affect her with why it lead her to take revenge.
The author uses the widow Saverini’s dog semillante meaning bright and sprightly as the murderer completely contradicting his name and his nature. The writer made the role of the dog in the story as “the murderer”. But then again he says that the dog too, were “inconsolable” with the death of her master, giving the dog a personality, and arousing sympathy for him. The widow however used him as this device mechanism, training him to be this ruthless killer, using his weakness as her gain. The writer already created tension in the atmosphere with the cold harsh surroundings, and again, this refers closely to the culture; this culture has trained this woman in to believing in a certain manner.
It has had such a great impact on her that she’s got a one track mind, a killing instinct in her, which she’s passing down to her dog Semillante. The writer says how she had an “inspiration of savage vindictive ferocity”, this is just expressing the widow’s negative extreme harsh anger she’s feeling, which afterwards she went to God to ask him to help her with this vengeance. The writer’s language here is very vivid, he says she had an “inspiration” to do this, as if she was ordained to fulfil this vendetta and she went to the church to even ask God for his help. So the writer is showing a spiritual side to the widow, as it seems she had every faith in God.
She used to leave the dog in the kennel, as it “howled” all night to be fed, and this hunger she used as her gain. The writer showed the widow’s clever side in this by building up Semillante’s “maddened” hunger is what drove the widow’s energy and she used that as her focal point in gaining what she wanted, so when she did finally get the dog fully trained to be a ruthless killer she set off after nearly 3months of training the dog. The widow must’ve been a very patient lady, cunning and very wise as day by day she plotted and schemed a plan which seemed almost foolproof.
Her son was the only thing in her life so when he died, the writer made the dog semillante the only thing going in the widow’s life, and the writer made it so that no one would take away the widow’s son that easily. Even though she was very patient, the writer also says that the widow was very “restless” as she looked at “the murderer”, the writer here is referring to the dog as the murderer, His style of writing about the dog is very vivid, as previously in the story he was giving the dog a soul almost, and now this soul had turned black, and no emotion or nothing is in it except just anger and hunger for food.
She dressed herself up as a “tattered old beggar man” to avoid suspicion and also because in that culture and that sort of environment back then it was not approved of old or young women to be going out by themselves. As most women had hardly any rights at all, it would’ve been looked down upon. The writer did reflect a lot back on the culture here and which bounced back on the widow’s personality. When she did see Nicolas Ravolti she didn’t hesitate to kill him, just straightaway she set her dog Semillante on him, knowing that the dog was extra hungry that day, she felt no compassion for Ravolti as she shouted out orders to Semillante to “tear him! Tear him!”. This just shows the old lady as bitter and being very cold as she just watched the dog savour Nicolas and didn’t show any sympathy.
That was her vindictive side which finally came out as she was taking her revenge. She killed Ravolti in the most brutal way, getting ravaged by a wild beast while he lay helpless. The widow had been bitter all this time, and she knew the only way to make Ravolti suffer as she did was to make the dog savour him bit by bit, so for that 5min while he lay helpless, it was as if it was reflecting back to her pain, and how she suffered 3months without her son, so in this the writer puts reflection back in also. And the choice of words the writer wrote for the widow when she told the dog to “tear him”, this in itself was explaining the anger the widow had inside of her.
So both Vendetta and the Schoolteachers guest have different cultural forces that affect their revenge. In the schoolteachers guest Ines kills the mango farmer in such a public way, with the whole community knowing about it whereas in the vendetta the widow Saverini had to go in disguise to kill Nicolas Ravolti, this is partly because both stories were set in different time scales, so both writers reflected the times the stories were set in, and put it in the actual story. Even though we did not know exactly when the stories were set, slight clues and hints made it clear.
Both the authors wrote the story so that the culture had a big part to play in both the women taking their revenge, their surroundings, location was built up and described heavily by the authors, and also their role in the community. Other characters in the stories such as Riad Halabi in the schoolteachers guest and the dog Saverini in the vendetta also had big roles in the story, one being the leader, the other being the murderer. Halabi was used as the comforter, the consoler, and the man who buried the body, the dog Saverini however was used as the loyal pet, she was the follower and afterwards used as the murderer, who killed Ravolti. So both characters had important roles in the stories.
The community also held a big importance in the stories, as this lead the way to how the two women killed the two men. Ines in the schoolteachers guest was a very important character in her community and with the support of her fellow people in her surroundings she chose an execution like killing. This would’ve only worked with Ines because as she had the whole community around her, an execution would have been a perfect way of killing, as in executions usually there are spectators that witness the event, so had this been done in vendetta, it wouldn’t have been very appropriate, as the widow wasn’t popular with the community. The author wrote that Ines had just chopped his head off with an axe. So that the people can see that the death of the boy was not to be taken lightly, but still she managed to convince herself that it was justified?
Her idea of of fate and justice seems to be interlinked, however that is not so. I believe that even though the mango farmer did not mean to shoot the boy, his intentions were not wrong and so he should’ve been given a fair trial. The widow Saverini’s idea of justice was purely the same except the widow used her wit and intelligence and planned the event, whereas Ines just left it up to fate to decide the time, date and place it would happen.
The widow’s ideology of the dog becoming this mean killing machine was completely contradicting the nature of the dog and as she did do this it seemed as though her whole mind frame of thinking was all about killing. This again relating to the culture, the writer clearly portrays the widow’s surroundings as very lonely, deserted and isolated and this had a big effect on her persona, she had nothing better to do but to do this the whole day, whereas Ines had a life and left it up to fate to decide upon this.
Both the writers did clearly state that both women were saddened but also very bitter. Getting justice for their sons’ murder could not have been gained by killing that murderer themselves. It makes them just as bad. A fair trial and a fair verdict by the law are necessary and not doing that isn’t exactly justice. They did the crime purely for their benefit, to help them get over it, not for their sons. I think both of the women were too bitter for their own good.
Both women did get that little bit of satisfaction as they took their revenge, Ines had finally killed the person who had shot her son, and she had killed him in the sense that it was meant to be and it was payback. And the widow Saverini’s satisfaction was that she got to fulfil that promise she made to her dying son and she had also finally when getting home “slept well”.
Courtney from Study Moose
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