Close Knit Family
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In Isabel Allende’s short story, “The Judge’s Wife” the idea of family togetherness seems to be a main theme throughout the story. Familial ties are recognized as binding the two families depicted in this story, even though in the case of one of them, the family members are not close. The idea that blood is thicker than water leads to an action taken by the main character in the story that will not only place stress on the family of his enemy but on his own, as well, and his action will become a catalyst for destroying both families.
The first family that Isabel Allende introduces the reader to is the family of Judge Hildago, which consists of his wife, Casilda and their 3 children. In the beginning the reader gets the impression that the Judge is a very strong and determined person, very dedicated to his job and to his family. When Judge Hildago is home with his family, his personality seems to be mellower than when he is at work. Gossipers report that in the evenings at home … “He flings off his gloomy apparel, rollicks with his children, chuckles as he sits Casilda on his lap”(382).
Nicholas Vidal and his mother are another set of characters that recognize that they are a family with ties that should be respected, even though they neither love nor respect each other. Early in the story the reader learns that Juana, Nicholas’s mom tries to take his life when he is born. Later, after Judge Hildago captures and puts her in a cage in the middle of the Plaza de Armas as bait for Vidal the Judge says, “As soon as the water’s finished, she’ll start to squawk. Then her son will come running…”(383). From this scene the reader gets the idea that Nicholas Vidal will be conflicted by the treatment of a family member and fly to her aid. The reader is surprised that Nicholas has no intention of saving his mother that he leaves her to die in the cage. Of course he does not believe the Judge has the nerve to keep his mother caged in so outrageous a manner and that the people will demand that he will release her.
Therefore, he does not act to save her, and his behavior goes against the most sacred value of his society, by honoring and protecting family ties. The Judge’s action creates a breech in family ties between Nicholas Vidal and his mother, by having Vidal believe he has to compete with him. When Vidal’s men are planning a way to save his mother, he says, “I’m not going to fall into this trap like an idiot” “We’ll see who’s got more balls, the Judge or me” (383). The Judge also breeches the family ties between himself and Casilda, because he wants to keep Juana locked up in the cage. Casilda wants her husband to release Juana, but he refuses. “In seven years, this was the first time she had gone against him and she had chosen to do so in front of the whole town”(384).
Another scene in which the reader sees Judge Hildago, Casilda, and the children as being close knit is where Casilda faces Nicholas Vidal at the end of the story, because she is trying to protect her husband and her children after her husband dies. Allende shows the reader that Casilda is proving that she cares and does not want anything to happen to them when she uses every female wile she has to detain the notorious bandit, until help arrives to rescue her and her children. She does not count on her being caught in destiny’s web and feeling love and gratitude for a man she had here to foreseen as her tormentor. As she hides her children she warns them “The troops will come to find you in a few hours from now. Until then, don’t for any reason whatsoever come out of here, even if you hear me screaming—- do you understand”(385)? Casilda is helping her husband because it seems that he is in danger with Vidal’s troops on the way.
In this short story, “The Judge’s Wife” the author shows the reader that family ties can always be broken if it is between life and death, as in the case with Nicholas Vidal and his mother, and Judge Hildago and his wife Casilda. Every one of these families mentioned in the story has very close ties in one way or another. When it comes to a conflict reflecting the personal value of one self then the tie is broken in order to save his/her life. It is hard to stay close to his/her family when it is between the meaning of life and death, but one should do whatever he/she can to help one another out.
Allende, Isabel. “The Judge’s Wife”. Literature and the Writing Process.
Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 5th ed. Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1999. 381-386