Imploding the Miranda complex in Julia Alvarez's how the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents - Imploding the Miranda Complex in Julia Alvarez's How the

Imploding the Miranda complex in Julia Alvarez's how the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

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Imploding the Miranda Complex in Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Jennifer Bess Jennifer Bess is an assistant pro- fessor of Peace Studies at Coucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. Her recent publica- tions include studies of the works of Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa) and Jhumpa Lahiri. A diary like this, with so many blank pages, seems to reflect a Ufe permeated with gaps, an existence fuU of holes. But perhaps that is what happens when one's experience is so intensely different from anything dreamed of as a child that there seems literaUy to be no words for it (Alice Walker, The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart). I n Shakespeare's The Tempest, Miranda enjoys afl the privileges of her father's reign over the island, yet she also acknowledges that "I have suffered/With those that I saw suffer!" (1.2.5-6). She is, as explained by Laura Donaldson, at once the sole heiress of Prospero's magical powers and the joint vic- tim of his tyranny as she suffers with the saflors being tossed by the tempest and the two surviving natives to the island. As Stephen Greenblatt's new historicist reading has revealed, TTie Tempest's debt to Wifliam
Jennifer Bess 79 Strachey's account of the 1609 Caribbean shipwreck illuminates the long history of the moral uncertainties raised by colonialism in the West.i Attending to issues of gender, Donaldson's work, shows that Miranda has inherited more than the guflty conscience and the fat wallet of her male peers. In fact, she even shares Caliban's fate as both have been relegated to the role of the other; in her case, however, that otherness includes not only the burden of oppression and powerlessness but also the burden of "the ben- efits and protection offered by the colonizing father and husband" (1992,17). Sbe is at once a victim and an heir of the forces of colonialism. It is this complex inheritance that Julia Alvarez studies, exorcizes, and memorializes in her autobiographicafly based novel. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. UnwiUing to represent the semi-fictional family's history through the binary paradigm of victim/oppressor, Alvarez instead utihzes the flexibflity and inclusiveness of the genre of the novel to reify what Donaldson has called the Miranda Complex—the condition of occupying the seemingly contradictory roles of victim and heir simultaneously. While critics have explored the theme of victimization in the novel and have also analyzed its inclusiveness in terms of Caribbean history and Alvarez's own biography, using Donaldson's Miranda Complex to complement such analy- ses confirms the salience and interrelatedness of issues including loss, guilt, polyphony and creativity. As a brief context in Caribbean post-colonial the- ory wifl reveal, the novel's structure and its inclusiveness work together to place the Garcia family's own story within a larger panorama of what Martinican theorist Edouard Glissant has called a "shared reality," a collective understanding that is the only source of generativity left to those whose his- tory has been erased or buried by colonialism (1989, 149). Furthermore, by

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