The portrayal of women in the novels "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Marquez and "The House of the Spirits" by Isabel Allende.

The portrayal of women in the novels One Hundred years of Solitude and The House of the Spirits differs greatly. In One Hundred Years of Solitude empowerment comes only through age, for instance Ursula Iguaran, the matriarch of the Buendia family and to some extent Macondo, or through strength of sexuality, for instance Pilara Tenera the ‘sexual matriarch’ of Macondo. This is in contrast with The House of the Spirits where empowerment comes also through force of conviction, as seen with Nivea, and also through commercial enterprise as seen with Transito Soto. These women represent Allende’s own brand of feminism Furthermore those women who except a traditional role of subservience and remain staunch in their conservatism are shown to finish their days alone and mostly forgotten as is seen with Ferula and Nana. As the novels were set in first half of the twentieth century in Latin America, the role of women in the social hierarchy of this backdrop is worthy of consideration. This was a patriarchal society where men of whatever age were always superior in standing to women. As a woman aged, her position in the social hierarchy would increase. Furthermore women had few career choices; all were linked to some form of domestic service whether solely as a wife and mother or as a nanny or a combination. Religion played a very important role in this predominantly catholic area. The role of women as portrayed by the church was somewhat of a paradox, simultaneously acknowledging and praising women for the gift of child bearing and yet depicting them as the root of all sin, as the temptress inducing thoughts of fornication as well as causing the original sin, that being Adam eating the fruit in the ‘Garden of Eden’.
Despite Marquez’s well documented anticlericalism this idea in church ideology of the temptress is paralleled in One Hundred Years of Solitude albeit the figure of Eve in her roles is split between the matriarchs of Macondo namely Pilar Tenera and Ursula Iguaran. In the beginning of One hundred years of solitude: "The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point." And in this fledgling world Jose Arcadio Buendia is Adam and Ursula Iguaran is Eve, both of whom are"…joined by a bond that was more solid than love: a common prick of conscience. They were cousins." Incest is the ‘original sin’ of Macondo it caused the foundation of Macondo as seen with Ursula Iguaran and Jose Arcadio Buendia and in a way Macondo’s destruction with Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano. Macondo’s foundation came about as a result of Ursula’s decision, following her mother’s advice,"…to refuse to consummate the marriage" leaving Jose Arcadio Buendia only "…anguished violence that seemed to be a substitute for the act of love…" Ursula’s role here as that of the temptress denying Jose Arcadio Buendia his conjugal rights, it is as a result of this that Prudencio Aguilar is killed and Macondo is formed so as to escape his ghost. While Ursula is the mother who births the Buendia men as children it is Pilar Tenera who births them into adulthood, playing mother by proxy to the Buendia men allowing them to fulfil their oedipal complexes and the cycle of incest in their families: "…he wanted her to be his mother…" Pilar Tenera is portrayed as the temptress. She fills Jose Arcadio’s bones with: "…foam, a languid fear, and a terrible desire to weep." Where Ursula is portrayed as the matriarch of the town Pilar is the sexual matriarch of the town. She bears two children from Aureliano Buendia and Jose Arcadio . She also has sexual relationships with Aureliano and Arcadio. This shows her power in the novel manifests sexually, it seems that the attraction to her is passed on through the generations , and even after marriage they always seem to return to her . She was the first lover of many of the Buendia men and her presence is felt throughout the whole novel , this is parallel