In this article, I am going to write about a literary period in Latin America called the “Vanguardia.” This period took place between the years of the 1920s and 1930s. In this period the idea was to break the social traditions of the time and traditional customs. Silvina Ocampo and María Luisa Bombal are writers who tried to promote feminism by writing from a female perspective, about how women feel within a patriarchal society, where they must comply with social rules, such as, for example, staying in a marriage in which they are not happy – either for convenience or by following social norms.
In the story of María Luisa Bombal, “El Árbol” (The Tree) wants to let the reader know that women and men have the same rights to be happy in a marriage, and if they are not, they will look for an escape that makes them forget their unhappiness. And when that emotional escape no longer exists, women often leave an unhappy marriage regardless of the social rules prohibiting that. Conversely, the author also points out that men can also stay in an unhappy marriage, just for convenience and to follow social rules as long as they have an emotional escape, such as infidelity or some other outlet.
In the “Tree,” the writer explains the life of Brigida, who got married for convenience. She wanted to have a husband who loves and protects her, but she began to feel bad in her marriage when she realized that her husband didn’t relly love her and began to suffer. This character started to analyze her life and came to the conclusion that she had to make some decisions to change that situation, but for some reason, she didn’t know how to do it and decided to find an emotional escape that will help her to forget about it. Consequently, she found an emotional escape when she discovers that there was a beautiful rubber- tree next to her window.
Brigida entertained herself by admiring the beauty and the variety of birds that perched on the tree. When that tree was cut down she decided to leave her husband.
Luis, her husband, on the other hand, married Brigida for convenience, and was not happy in his marriage because he didn’t love her; then avoided her all the time but pretended that he loved her. His escape was to be busy and away from home as much as possible. Nevertheless, he preferred to stay in his marriage for convenience and to follow social norms.
In the story, María Luisa Bombal, explains that Brigida was a pretty-young girl, and very ignorant because she never wanted to study. Apparently, her father marries her off to Luis for convenience, a man who is much older than her. He was a close friend of her father. In the first year of their marriage, Brigida was very loving with her husband, and she felt that she loved him, but unlike her, her husband Luis was not sincere. He was fond of her, but he didn’t love her as a woman; he did not show her love or passion; his kisses, affection and smiles were not sincere. In addition, Luis looked for excuses not to be with her, for example, he said: “I’m busy, I cannot accompany you, I have a lot to do, I would not be able to come home for lunch; eat and go to bed, I don’t know, you better not wait for me” (Bombal, 23).
These things disturbed Brigida. She also to asked herself why her husband didn’t want to have children? Why did he avoided her and never wanted to be with her? Nevertheless, she never complained about anything. But, one day, something unexpected happened, when her husband said: “Brigida, it is going to be a hot heat in Buenos Aires, why don’t you go to your father’s farm?” (Bombal, 25). This situation made her realize that her husband did not love her, and she stoped talking to him for a long time. Finally, when her husband asked, “is it true that you do not love me? in any case, we should not separate; you have to think about it” (Bombal, 27).
There, Brigida realized that her husband wanted to maintain a marriage without love only to follow customs and social norms. Brigida didn’t want to be in that marriage anymore, but she didn’t know how she could get out of it. So she started looking for an emotional escape that really filled her emotionaly, so she entertained herself with a beautiful rubber- tree that was next to her window.
This tree recreated her sight because she saw a variety of birds perched on it and children playing around the tree. That tree made Brigida forget the situation that she lived in her marriage, until one day the tree was not there anymore. When the tree disappeared from her life, Brigida realized that she could not stay in a marriage with a man twice her age; who didn’t want to have children with her. Consequently, she had nothing left but to seek her freedom instead of agreeing to stay in a marriage for convenience, receiving crumbs of affection that was not even real. Then, she decided to leave her husband.
In conclusion, I think that the author in this story states that there is no difference between men and women, in the sense of staying in an unhappy or unloving marriage if they have an entertainment or something external that fills them with joy. Brigida’s husband agreed to stay married as long as he enjoyed himself with daily commitments. Brigida, in the same way, would’ve remained in her marriage if the tree had never been cut down. Finally, I will say that, in this story, the only difference between man and woman, is that women are the only ones who suffer in the marriage and cannot stand when there is nothing that fills them emotionally. Men, on the other hand, do not get affected emotionally because they are not loved. In this case, Brigida, is less methodical and cold, and if there is nothing else that fills her emotionally, she will not tolerate to stay in a marriage where she doesn’t feel loved. Hence, she must end the marriage and move on.
Bombal, María Luisa. “El Árbol.” Editorial Del Cardo, 2003.
Written By: Erika Knodler
Translator and Psychologist