“The Representation of Friendship in The Rain God by Arturo Islas”
In the following essay I will examine the contrast between friendship and the ‘construct’ of family in Arturo Islas’ novel The Rain God. In this story the reader is confronted with the comradeship between Juanita and Lola that endures a really difficult situation, Miguel Grande’s adulterous affair with Lola. Additionally there is this ‘construct’ of family, however, which is highly dysfunctional and held together by only a few members for instance Mama Chona. The course of the narrative shows that friendship becomes of higher value than family relations. Juanita sets the freely chosen comradeship to Lola in contrast to the ‘construct’ of the Angel family in which all the members have to stick together even if they do not want to. Juanita embodies a character that is completely different to Mama Chona’s as Juanita seems to be the only real friend in the story. The character who embodies a life for “la casa”, where the family is transformed into a value, and who is dishonest is represented by the matriarchal figure of Mama Chona. However, in order to demonstrate the full scope of Juanita’s honest character, it will be necessary to present her in other interpersonal relationships as well, namely those with her son Miguel Chico, her sister Nina and the housemaid Maria.
On the one hand there is Juanita who is married to Miguel Grande, Mama Chona’s youngest son, and has a friendship to Lola. Juanita is a very trustful, even naïve and gullible woman as she believes in the good intentions of everybody. She thinks that all people around her, especially friends and relatives, are similar to her and would never harm anybody. She always has the highest opinion of her friends and gives nothing on the gossiping around her. Even when friends tell her to be careful with the “friendship” between her best friend Lola and her husband Miguel Grande, Juanita refuses to listen, instead telling them to be silent. She would never believe that her husband conducts an adulterous affair with Lola. “Until that moment” when Miguel Grande told her about the affair “Juanita did not want and would not believe anyone else” (Islas 53). In this moment of truth Juanita’s whole character becomes obvious. She is neither angry with her husband nor with her friend Lola and instead forgives both. She begins to weep and explains that she was crying because she already misses Lola (c.f. Islas 99). Throughout the course of the story Juanita learns to endure such pain, shame and humiliation.
“Without letting him know, Juanita understood and accepted Miguel’s constant desire for Lola. In her brooding, she decided that even if the experience of a great sexual passion had been denied her, a lasting relationship based on such intense feelings survived only in the movies and bestsellers that she loved” (Islas 107).
Juanita is a merciful character as she also forgives her husband when he returns after spending some time with Lola and welcomes him with open arms. She promises him to “learn what he likes in bed” and to spend more time with him (c.f. Islas 103). Here it becomes evident that Juanita even searched for wrong-doings concerning her own behaviour and that she thinks she was to blame for the adulterous affair between her husband and her friend. She also misses the evenings with Lola, the gossiping with her and even “[…]want[s] to see her” (Islas 108). Such an angel like manner is not what would be natural and expected in such a situation.
Juanita’s true and good character also becomes obvious when compared to Nina, her younger sister. She is the complete opposite to Juanita. “Nina was the pragmatic one […]; Juanita was the idealist and romantic” (Islas 40). Nina would never ever bear and endure such humiliation caused by her husband. She is a tough woman who does not give anything to religious “female sacrifices” which is the bearing of every bad situation without complaining. She was not dominated by Church doctrine than was Juanita (c.f. Islas 35). Instead, she gives Juanita advice about how to behave:
“What do you mean ‘poor Lola’? That bitch has been taking advantage of you for a long time. And as for that husband of yours, it’s about time you got rid of him. He’s a liar and worse than a two-timer. […] She’s got a reputation for that, you know” (Islas 101).
Even if Nina tells the truth, her sister’s response is different: “[…] never again speak about Lola and Miguel like that. She is my friend and he is my husband […]” (Islas 101). Here Juanita stands in for Miguel Grande and her friend. She demonstrates that a real friendship can be more precious than family, as her bond to Lola survives a really problematic time. She places friendship above her own needs as she in some way shares her husband with her friend Lola. She would even leave her husband to Lola: “If you want him, you can have him.” […] “In the end the women agreed that he was a liar, that he must choose between them, and that they were sorry for the hurt they had caused each other” (Islas 105).
The connection to her comrade is much stronger than any other bond in a family could be. In a friendship you can always run away or split with your friend when things are not going well. You have no real responsibility towards the other person and you are free in choosing the people you want to spend time with. In such moments it is revealed how strong the bond of friendship is.