La Mujer Habitada (The Inhabited Woman), a semi-autobiographical novel of Gioconda Belli. The novel, which was published in 1998 foster much attention. The novel dealt with the Sandinistas struggle for liberation as well as her native Nicaraguan feminist effort to be recognized and achieved equal rights in a patriarchal society (Salgado 235).
“The Inhabited Woman grabs us from two unexpected directions: its consciousness of the centrality of woman in struggle, and its retrieval of the cycles of birth and rebirth which are such an important part of indigenous cosmology (Randall 6).
” The novel also dealt with gender issue in Nicaraguan revolutionary narratives. To Timothy Richards, this is a narrative of female struggle in society, “through a progressively more comprehensive involvement in her society, [the protagonist] learns to distinguish the true from the false in her and the world around her” (Belli 209).
Lavinia, who is an upper class woman, also carries out her own feminist struggle by refusing to get married. She chooses her independency over her lover.
Lavinia, believed that marriage, would mean placing limitations to one’s self—unless, the right man would came along (Belli 22). She begun to accept and embraces the principles of the movement.
Her being an oligarch is quite apparent in her conversation with her childhood friends Sara and her husband Andrian as well as her parents. The main character of the story, also wanted to proved her worth as a person – her struggle to proved her knowledge will be eventually unravel in the story – she as an architect strive to prove her self worth and received a lot of merits. In the field where men always dominate – Lavinia proved them wrong. She, despite the adversities in life in the long run succeeded in the field where men dominate, which implicates the gender and/or feminist struggle of the novel.
Similar with Lavinia, Gioconda also proved their worth as a person – her choice to be involve in the movement is in itself a worth proving decision. Leaving the life of luxury and offering life in the service of the people is a tough and firm decision to make. Putting your life to danger in exchange of serving the oppressed and underprivileged people. The rampant oppressions, which she herself is an eye-witness, inflame the nationalistic spirit in her.
As the novel continues, the parallelism between the main character, Lavinia and the writer herself is being introduced gradually. Both were raised in an upper class family, had a good educational background and were raised in a society suffering from political and economic turmoil. Both were also living a life of luxury and extravagance. But both women, decided not to be indifferent about the current political situation of the country. They both were determined to struggle the rights of the underprivileged, less fortunate and oppressed majority. Belli, met someone from the movement whom she got intimately involved while Lavinia met Adrian her husband before she met Felipe, whom introduced her to the ideology of the movement.
Lavinia and Belli were involved in the movement at time when both were still at a young age. Their young age did not get into the way of their involvement in the movement. In fact, during those times they were envisioning their society to be more kind among its people. Their realization to this inspires them to get into a more cause oriented and more meaningful engagement in society. The formal years were quite a struggle for both, since they were raised in a well to do family. But as the novel continues Lavinia found herself to being involved in the revolutionary movement while on the part of Belli, she recognizes that these oppressions must end. In order to end the suffering and oppression of the people, one has to get involved and make a difference.
In substantiating the above claim, Belli and Lavinia, the main character of the novel, were raised in a conservative and protective family. Belli, decided to join the Sandinista movement because of her belief that oppression and suffering under the Somoza regime must come to and end. She became deeply involved in the movement and later on played a significant role. Belli became the courier of the movement during the height of the oppression. And because of her deep involvement in the Sandinista movement, she exiled in Mexico in 1975.
In 1979, the overthrow the Somoza regime, Belli continued her involvement in the movement and she took several important posts. In 1982, she became the FSLN (Frente Sandinista de la Liberación Nacional) liaison officer. Then in 1984, she became the director of State Communications and was responsible in organizing major literacy programs and projects.
Just like the novel, during the 1970, Managua is experiencing a political and social turmoil. The Inhabited Woman is based on an episode of Nicaraguan experience, where oppression and injustices are rampant. This is where the novel took off its narrative. All the events if not all that was reflected in the novel were all inspired in the current political and society’s situation (March 53).
As for Lavinia, her lover Felipe, became instrumental to her involvement in the revolutionary movement. The movement intends to overthrow the current military dictatorship governing the whole country. Notice that both Lavinia and Gioconda were influenced by their lovers to be involved in their respective revolutionary struggle.
Both struggled wanting achieve national liberation and recognizing equal rights of the people (March 83). Gioconda was recruited in the revolution by the Camilo Ortega, but the one who really inspired was the one whom she called ‘the poet.’ Belli felt that she could transform her life and empower herself as a citizen and as a person, this realization allowed her to break from her marriage. A marriage where she was quite unhappy. It was a combination of things that led her to defy convention and have that affair with the ‘Poet’ (Salgado 237).
It was also the time of the sexual liberation. People were talking about open marriages. It was all those things combined. She emphasized that her my political stance was never determined by the men she was with. Belli had her own ideas and convictions. She exemplifies her admiration with the ‘Poet’ because Belli believed that he opened doors for her not only in terms of getting to know the Nicaraguan history better as well as everything that was going on in Latin American literature. The ‘poet’ had imprinted a great influenced to her, as an individual and a writer.
Take note that, Felipe had also been influential to Lavinia’s social awareness – their frequent conversation which led to her deep involvement in the revolution is exemplifies in this manner. Under the protection of the tree, the young protagonist and Felipe discuss the revolution and the role of women in it. And, it is during these discussions that Lavinia’s social consciousness is awakened (March 235).
In the novel, Lavinia, the main character often goes to a secluded part where her grandfather stays. She returns to her home when she needed time to think and to get away from the crowded and strident sound which the city brings. Like Gioconda, she often remembered her country where she was raised by her family – where she was educated and she became socially conscious about the current situation of her country. She oftentimes, felt that longingness and going back to where she really belonged. Noticed the following narration of the writer:
It was a clear day. The landscape disrobed at her feet, devoid of fog. The tiny houses, the lake, the row of blue volcanoes, were spread out in the distance, silent, motionless, majestic. Up closer, the vegetation in the mountains unfolded in green toward the valley where the city lay.
Twisted tree trunks hung dangerously over the edge. [… J This landscape was hers, her idea of homeland; this is what she dreamed of when she found herself on the other side of the ocean. This landscape made the most outlandish dreams of the Movement understandable. This land sang to her flesh and blood, to her sense of being a woman in love, rebelling against opulence and misery. […] This land deserved a better fate. (Belli 348-49)
The narration above depicts the idealized and post-revolutionary Faguas which was Lavinia is fighting for – where wealth and misery is not a problem anymore. Belli, dreamt of it in her life. In fact he fought for it, she envision a country with no repressive army, freedom and democratic responsibilities.
During the height of the dictatorship, Belli handled few accounts that had to do with businesses with Somoza regime. And because of that she was able to extract documents, which later on she provided to the Sandinista movement. The character of Lavinia in the novel also worked with the ruling regime. Thus, substantiate the parallelism between the two, Belli and Lavinia. As much as Lavinia hated the military leaders she had no choice but to work with them. She had to meet and had conversations with people from the government, whom actually she despised. Belli, on the other hand had also experience that of Lavinia’s sentiments in the novel. Belli, actually had to go to different embassies and talk to people whom she don’t like that much.
As far as their revolutionary experience is concerned, both women continued to contribute to the success of the movement. Belli, played an important role in the Sandinistas Movement same as Lavinia when she become involved in the revolutionary movement. She dedicated her life in the struggle to eradicate oppression and injustices. And she even forsakes her life to realize that goal.
Lavinia during the height of her consciousness held various educational discussions among several groups to raise their consciousness. Also the discussion between Itza and the main character Lavinia reveals this claim. Belli, on the other also organized group discussions among citizens of Nicaragua to rouse their consciousness as to what is happening in their society. And to encourage them to stand for their rights and liberate themselves from the oppressive ruler of their country.