Symbolism in literature is used togive an entirely different meaning which is more significant and much deeper toa story using objects representing other objects and giving them a sense thatis different from their literal meaning. The meaning of the symbols used todepend on the reader, and there is no universal meaning for symbols usedbecause their purpose is inherent in the symbol itself. In both stories, theauthors use symbols to give different meanings to their story.
In Eduardo Galeano’s story, thecentral symbolism is the relationship between Dulcidio and his wives which isused to show the relationship dynamic between men and women and especially in amarriage setting as husband and wives. The lizard consuming his wives and stillasking for more to quench his appetite is a representation of how men take overthe identity of their wives and yet keep demanding for more from the women suchas setting up a home and giving them children. Most women change their lastname after marriage and take over the identity of the husband. This is likeconsuming the wives according to this short story. On the other hand, Charlotte PerkinsGilman uses the symbol of Gerald’s’ voice to show the thinking of a young womanwho wished she was a man as to her, men had more power and were able to attainan independence that she could not have as a woman. It is a story that bringsout the idea of the socially constructed gender roles as being outdated andhaving no place in the modern world as they are damaging to both men and womenas they make them live in a way that is limiting and not fulfilling. Thissymbol is used to voice the changes that Mollie Mathewson is experiencing whenher wish of being a man comes true, and she was able to experience the powerand freedom of being a man (Gilman).
In the short story “The Story of theLizard Who Had the Habit of Dining on His Wives” the symbol of the childwho is half man and a half lizard is used to propagate the theme of predatorand prey in the dynamic relationship between men and women. This symbol isidentified due to the use of a lizard which is a reptile, and most reptiles areknown to be predators who hunt the weaker prey for food and survival. Theauthor uses to portray men as predators and women as the prey. This isespecially evident when Dulcidio meets the lady who does not fall into the lureas all the other women feel into which is the proclamation of his wealth (Galeano).She is not the least bit interested, and this evokes the predatorycharacteristics of the lizard. He keeps going back to the same place he met herin the hopes of meeting her again and convincing her to be his wife. He is behaving like a predator waiting forhis prey.
In her setting of the story, CharlottePerkins uses the symbol of Mollie entering her husband’s body to show thedifference in how the male gender experiences the world due to the sociallycreated roles as compared to how a female experiences the world. She is onlysubconscious enough in her husband’s body to recognize the differences in herexperiences with those of her husband. For instance, in her husband’s body, thenew world seems to be just around the right size. Everything in the modernworld seemed to fit. She is free and comfortable. This symbol is used to showthe inner desire in women to be open to doing anything they wished and not beconstricted by a set unwritten rule. This symbol is used to bring out the themeof independent women.
The thrill shefeels of having her own money and being able to decide on how to use it was adifferent feeling since in her world women did not work. Both short stories use symbolism tobring out the theme of feminism. Feminism is a movement that believes in equalopportunities for both men and women. In the short story “The Story of theLizard Who Had the Habit of Dining on His Wives,” the woman with theglasses and a book represents women empowerment through feminism. The symbol ofher relationship dynamic with Dulcidio is used to develop this theme. The factthat she is educated and independent and is unimpressed by Dulcidio’s wealthleads to the identification of the use of the theme, feminism.
All his otherwives had nothing of their own, and their families were poor while Dulcidio hadno shortage of wealth. He was, therefore, able to win them over by impressingthem with the wealth. In the story “If I Were aMan,” the symbolism of the woman wishing she was a man despite being areal woman in all senses also brings out the theme of feminism. The modernwoman wants to be empowered and desires to be independent and free of all thedefinitions society has placed on her. Using the symbol of being in herhusband’s body gives her access to all that a man has especially theindependence and responsibilities such as managing money and she feelscomfortable in such a role.
Charlotte uses this symbol to push the womenempowerment theme by showing that women do not have to stick to the sociallycreated role of staying at home but can go out and take on the world just asmen can.Still using the symbol of the relationship betweenDulcidio and his wives, Eduardo Galeano shows the dynamic of the relationshipbetween men and women when the man is taken with the woman and is nowvulnerable.