Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy; Major: Modern Languages and Literatures (Spanish). Under the Supervision of Professor Catherine Nickel. Lincoln, Nebraska: Summer, 2009.
Copyright © 2009 Carmen Bourbon.


Some short stories by Caribbean women writers feature a female protagonist speaking in her own voice, telling her own story and coming to understand herself and her circumstances. In other texts, the protagonist's voice is challenged, overwhelmed or replaced by other voices, and she continues suffering psychologically. We examine the relationship between changes in the narrative voice and the female protagonist’s fate in twelve texts, demonstrating the consequences of her ability or inability to tell her story.

Each text displays a distinct correspondence between the protagonist’s life and how it is narrated. In "Masticar una rosa", "El lado frío de la almohada" and "Rondeles" a first-person narrator reflects on her mistreatment and begins to understand her situation. In "Una semana de siete días" and "De tal astilla, tal palo" a first-person narrator recounts being abandoned or betrayed by her mother but never overcomes her feeling of abandonment or resentment. In "Un poema para Alicia" a first-person narrator tells of sexual abuse by her father, framed by other voices. In "Remordimiento" and "El cuento envenenado", others tell a woman's story. In "Remordimiento", a white woman tells the life of a former slave who barely speaks in the text. In "El cuento envenenado" the stepmother comments on a fictional version of her stepdaughter's life. In "Bumerang", first-person and third-person narrators tell the story of the protagonist's mistreatment, but she barely recognizes her abuse. Although the protagonist's voice predominates in "Así fue mamá", her abuser has the final word. In "Los mundos de Teresa", a third-person narrator reveals Teresa's fate after her teacher raped her. We hear the neighbors' comments but not Teresa's voice. A third-person narrator reveals Elba's preference for imaginary worlds in "Más allá" but Elba never expresses herself in tangible ways.

These texts demonstrate a relationship between unheard voices and unseen violence in selected literary works from Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, illustrating the complex interactions of gender, violence and voice in the Caribbean region today.

[The text of this dissertation is in Spanish.]