Essay about The Salamander By Merce Rodoreda
How do the images in “The Salamander” (notably the ones related to setting), reveal the narrators emotional “The Salamander” (1967) of the great Catalan writer Merce Rodoreda’s (1908–1983) assumes a dream-like, surreal and allegorical narration to the style and proportion of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. This was evident with the transformation of the girl who had an illicit relationship with a married man, accused of witchcraft and then burn at the stake. As the fire engulfed her body and melting it, the man she had an affair with that caused her misery watched her burn as his wife stood beside him. She later transformed into a salamander which strangely enough, still stayed with the man, albeit her internal protestations that she cannot resist.
The narration, mainly of the girl, took an unnatural plot to the point of almost being allegorical but the reader cannot discount the somber and bleak perspective tone of the village girl especially with her horrific epiphanies of despair and pain. This was because her life centered on an illicit relationship with a married man that cannot commit to her that she had to meet him in the forest. The tryst was almost an assault, and strangely she loved him. Yet he lied when he was asked if he is married or not. So the girl was depressed and in pain. To aggrieve her further, the wife of the man (who denied having one) whom she had an affair with was jealous and accused her of witchcraft. She then launched a smear campaign against her where the village people took up her cause until it led to her burning at the stake.
The village girl was helpless. She was sexually assaulted by the married man who lied to her. Taken advantage and subjected to unjust persecution, she was resigned to the stake. Yet even with the stake, she is still not free as she was being transformed to a salamander. As a salamander, she still opted to be near the man who caused her pain even if she was already in her transformed state of being an animal. The man who caused her pain who stood beside her accuser is still inescapable.
This reflects the girl’s ambivalent feelings for her lover that she considers an enemy yet she wants to be with him. Her emotional displacement, her sorrow, caused her to compromise any sense of morality during her day, as she resigned to the will of a marriage where she submitted to the whim of the flesh. In the end, she was being persecuted and alone, almost on exile that the man who took her in the forest did not even lift a finger to defend her from a jealous wife.
The village girl’s predicament of her pain, of being caused to be burned at the stake, of being transformed to another being who could have the chance to escape, is a metaphorical reflection of the typical predicament of man’s avarice and a girl’s vulnerability where society applies a double standard to what is right and wrong.