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Kiss of the Spider Woman Essay

Maternal Love: A Study of Unconditional Love in Kiss of the Spider Woman

The love a person can have for another varies in intensity and in its passion. In the novel, Kiss of the Spider Woman, written by Manuel Puig, two men, Valentin and Molina share a jail cell in a prison in Buenos Ares, Argentina. Molina, an effeminate, homosexual male, expresses his caring nature for Valentin, his romantic interest outside of prison, Gabriel, and his mother throughout the novel. He feels a need to nurture others, but he is often unable to experience these emotions without also expressing his sexual desires.

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In the novel, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Manuel Puig presents Molina’s mother as the one channelling outlet for Molina’s atypical feelings of strictly nurturing love, rather than his feelings of love that are continuously attached to sexual feelings to show that his mother gives him the ability to express his nurturing feelings without any romantic regards. This ultimately reveals that love absent of sexual desire is the most unconditional kind.

Puig indirectly characterizes Molina as superficial to reveal that his deep care for his lover, Gabriel, is driven, in fact, by sexual desires. When Molina responds to Valentin’s question of why he likes Gabriel, Puig writes, “First, because he’s just so marvellous looking. And after that, because I think he’s very intelligent, but he has none of the opportunities in life, and here he is still working at that shitty job, but he deserves much more. Which makes me feel like I want to help him out” (Puig 57). Molina constantly expresses how much he loves Gabriel, but here, Puig begins with a very shallow, superficial statement that Molina makes about Gabriel. Molina states that he likes him “because he’s so marvellous looking” and then continues by saying that “he deserves much more.” Here, Molina’s initial thought addresses Gabriel’s physical look. Puig illustrates Molina’s superficial thoughts with the added diction of “marvellous” that applies strictly to his physical appearance.

Puig creates irony when he directly characterizes Molina as the person who is supposed to love Gabriel more than even his own wife, yet Molina is attracted to Gabriel’s superficial appearance more than anything else. Although he does deeply care for Gabriel, he is unable to feel this without letting these feelings be driven by physical and sexual emotions.

There is also a reference to Gabriel “deserving much more,” which is Molina’s indirect criticism of Gabriel’s female partner, for Gabriel is actually heterosexual. He is saying that Gabriel’s partner is not satisfying him as much as he should be satisfied. Because his statement about his physical appearance appears before the one about his concern for Gabriel’s life, Puig reveals that his physical attraction is a large part and reason for his love for Gabriel. Thus, Puig characterizes Molina as superficial to reveal that his deep care for his lover, Gabriel, is driven, in fact, by sexual desires.

Manuel Puig uses Molina’s caring gesture of assisting and helping Valentin clean himself to show that his caring nature is underscored by sexual urges. When Molina is helping Valentin clean himself after Valentin recovers from his violent illness, Puig writes, “Okay…that’s it, and a little over here…turn slowly…that’s right. Nothing went through to the mattress, so it’s not so bad. And fortunately, there’s plenty of water. I can just wet a clean top of the sheet to wipe you off, that’s easy enough” (Puig 141). Here, Puig presents Molina’s gesture like that of a kind and willing one, but one that is filled with sexual suggestions. Puig reveals this by the action of “a little over here” and “turn slowly.”

Although Molina is helping Valentin because he is his friend, he also wants to engage in something physical with Valentin. Offering to help him clean himself is a way for Molina to express his nurturing personality, but also liberate his sexual desires toward Valentin. In addition, the syntactical element of ellipses in the above example further reveal the action of Molina physically moving Valentin to better clean him. Rather than simply having Valentin move, Molina wishes to touch Valentin. Although Molina truly wants to help Valentin, he also wants to engage on a more physical level with him. Thus, Puig uses Molina’s caring gesture of cleaning Valentin to show that his caring nature is underscored, in fact, by sexual urges.

Finally, Puig uses a loving tone to depict Molina’s mother as an outlet for Molina, where Molina is able to express his nurturing feelings without being romantically involved. When Valentin and Molina are in their cell and Molina begins to talk about his mother, Puig writes, “Because, just look, my mom’s affection for me is, well, it’s the only good thing that’s happened to me in my whole life, because she takes me for what I am, and loves me just that way, plain and simple. And that’s like a gift from heaven, and the only thing that keeps me going, the only thing” (Puig 203). Here, Molina expresses his love for his mother that is driven by her unconditional love for him.

Puig creates a loving tone when he says “My mom’s affection for me is…the only good thing that’s happened to me” and “takes me for what I am.” Molina’s mother loves him deeply and he truly appreciates her love when Puig writes “And that’s…the only thing that keeps me going” and when he uses the simile that her love is “like a gift from heaven.” Molina expresses his love for his mother with ease and confidence, revealing that the love they share is not complicated and is absolute. Their relationship is free of romance and this relationship allows Molina to express his nurturing tendencies without also expressing his sexual desires because she cannot represent any kind of romantic love.

In the novel, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Puig presents Molina’s mother as an outlet for his nurturing feelings that are also constantly associated with sexual desires to show that his mother gives him the ability to express his nurturing feelings without the romantic attachment. This ultimately reveals that love lacking sexual desires is the most unconditional kind. Molina’s feelings toward Gabriel and Valentin are both caring and sexual and are complicated; however, his relationship with his mother is strictly nurturing and is very concrete. Although sexual attraction suggests enhancement in a relationship, it creates superficiality. And while the loving feelings may be genuine, those loving feelings are unable to flourish- and instead, get masked and overshadowed behind the dominating sexual desires.

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