Machismo and The Power of Words



Two Words

The “Magic Realism” was a phenomenon that was created in Latin America. Where magical and unrealistic elements are portrayed as the part of the story. The short story “Two Words,” by Isabel Allende captivates the essence of a magical place and an open ending.

The short story starts off with describing the misfortunes of the main character, a girl who had no name when she was born because her family was that poor and uneducated. She named herself Belisa Crepusculario. After her family’s tragedy, she ends up traveling to the north to find a job. In the process she ends up finding a newspaper in which she does not know the use for it. Her curiosity over powers her shyness and she ends up asking a man near what it’s for.

She realizes the meaning of words and the power they can do by selling them. She learns to read and write by paying a priest twenty pesos to teach her. She becomes a seller of words, people come to her to hear her recite stories, love letters, insults to enemy’s etc.

“The setting of the story is a post civil war country, which is not identified. This highlights how Allende’s short stories engage with real events and socio-historical facts,” said graduate student Ewa Kaminshka.

Although Allende uses magic realism in her stories she always sends messages that are very real in today’s society. The most important one that I interpreted was machismo. A clear picture of the Colonel’s character when he is first introduced in the story.

“No es fácil ser mujer en ninguna circunstancia, pero cuando se vive en una sociedad machista, como lo son casi todas en América Latina, es como tratar de correr en muletas […]” (It isn’t easy to be a woman in any circumstance, but when one lives in a macho society, such as in all of Latin America, it is like trying to run with crutches […]), said Isabel Allende, in Fempress.

Belisa meets the Colonel when his soldiers kidnap her so she can write a speech because he wants to run president. The Colonel is illiterate and he wants to capture the attention of the people that he is more than a soldier; he wants change.

The title of the story means the two words that Belisa gives as a gift to the Colonel that bewitch him and he can’t stop thinking about her. The reader never knows what the two words she spoke to him. This is a metaphor on how powerful words can be; his armor of machismo had been stripped down.



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