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Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez are not novels that lead to the same universal message or story plot, however, both protagonists share a common affection toward a courtesan. The male perspective is dominant in both Siddhartha and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Both novels are written by male authors, the narration in both novels is male and the main protagonists, Santiago and Siddhartha, are two arrogant and proud men. Maria Alejandrina Cervantes in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and Kamala in Siddhartha, are renowned courtesans that own brothels, and astound both Santiago Nasar and Siddhartha at the first sight with their natural beauty. "Siddhartha saw how beautiful she [Kamala] was, and his heart rejoiced" (Hesse 29). Santiago Nasar "lost his senses the first time he saw herâ€¦dazzled by Maria Alejandrina Cervantes's illusionary calls" (Marquez 64). The use of courtesans symbolizes refuge and salvation to Siddhartha and Santiago. Maria Alejandrina Cervantes and Kamala are in fact male interpretations of females. Their characterization is a fantasy because both women are portrayed as beautiful, attractive, alluring, supportive, and strong. However, they are submissive and are not strong enough to overpower Santiago and Siddhartha.
Maria Alejandrina Cervantes and Kamala are both representations of salvage and refuge for Santiago and Siddhartha. These women are confidants to the men, they provide them with advice and listen to whatever it is that is troubling their thoughts. Maria Alejandrina Cervantes was Santiago's "mad passion, his mistress of tears at age fifteen" (Marquez 65). Not only does Maria Alejandrina Cervantes form a bond to Santiago but she also develops a relation with the narrator, Santiago's friend: "She taught us above all that there's no place in life sadder than an empty bed" (65). A bed embodies warmth, comfort, security, and protection. It is soft but built to be durable and sturdy enough to hold any weight. A woman is often illustrated as possessing these traits, often she is the glue that holds together a family or relationship. Siddhartha forms a deep connection with Kamala: "You are like me; you are different from most people. You are Kamala, nothing else, and within you is a tranquility and refuge, in which you can take shelter anytime and be at home with yourself, just as I can, too." (Hesse 39). After Siddhartha leaves and Santiago dies both women shut their sanctuaries emotionally, however, they continue their laborious work of pleasing others before themselves.
The two women act as sanctuaries to the men in the novel who depend on their nourishment and care, but they confine themselves to a life of work, pain and melancholy for a non-transcendent love. Kamala raises her and Siddhartha's son alone until a poisonous snake bites her. Through the course of this unfortunate event, she is reunited with Siddhartha. "She thought about her intention to journey to Gotama to see the face of a perfect man, to absorb his peaceâ€¦she reflected that she had now found Siddhartha instead, and that it was good, just as good as if she had seen Gotamaâ€¦when the final stab of pain filled her eyes" (Hesse 62). The narrator states in Chronicle of a Death Foretold that Maria Alejandrina Cervantes "would go to sleep only once and that would be to die, was the most elegant and the most tender woman I have ever known" (Marquez 64). When she hears of Santiago's death, the narrator goes to her bed and finds her with a platter of food, "disproportionate eating was the only way she could ever mourn and I'd never seen her do it with such grief" (77). After the men leave them, they are left to carry the burden of the relationship.
The gender role placed upon each of these women by society defines their culture, and at times may be hypocritical. Siddhartha changes himself completely and enters the material world where he is seen as a victim to selfish and misleading happiness that pulls him off the course of enlightenment. After a period of materialistic happiness, Siddhartha feels empty and worthless. Kamala is to blame for introducing him to the type of lifestyle. Still, "no one was close to him except Kamala" (40). When Siddhartha disappears, Kamala lets herself feel possessed and permeated by him, and has to accept his departure. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Maria Alejandrina Cervantes and Santiago are said to be linked by a "serious affection, but without the disorder of love, and she had so much respect for him that she never again went to bed with anyone else if he was present" (66). The women in the novels give up part of themselves in their relation to the men. However, the men are free from feeling or giving up any part of themselves. Family honor, social prestige, and a woman's purity and virginity are important to the townsfolk; however, hypocrisy is also part of the town in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The fact that Maria Alejandrina Cervantes owns a brothel is not a big deal. She is depicted as a woman with an unclean profession but know as a beautiful woman that taught all the men about sex. However, "Angela Vicario, the beautiful girl who'd gotten married the day before, had been returned to the house of her parents, because her husband has discovered she wasn't a virgin" (5). This became a huge scandal when Angela deemed Santiago Nasar responsible for seizing her virginity before her marriage. Pablo and Pedro Vicario were forced by society to reclaim their sister's honor, through killing Santiago. From this event, we see that for the two different women there are two different standards. It is acceptable for Maria Alejandrina Cervantes to open a brothel, but it is not acceptable when Angela Vicario is not a virgin. It seems that in this culture a woman can either follow the strict codes controlling their sexuality or they can ignore it all together. Contrastingly, in Siddhartha, Kamala is seen as the paragon of perfection in terms of prowess in the art of lovemaking. She is a courtesan, yet she maintains high-class status in society. Only the wealthiest men go learn from her. Kamala cried, "No, my good man, he still does not satisfy me! He must have clothes, handsome clothes, and shoes, good-looking shoes, and a lot of money in his purse, and gifts for Kamala" (30). Women in Siddhartha do not regard their bodies quite as highly as those of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, for such characters have more to their name than honor alone.
Hesse and Marquez use courtesans because there is no important reason for both their male protagonists to have to commit and respond to these women. Maria Alejandrina Cervantes and Kamala love Santiago and Siddhartha, and serve to provide a romance in the novels, but they do no play a major role in the novels. Furthermore, it is suggested that a male's nature is superior to a female's, even though the males are vastly dependent on the females' caretaking and nourishment. Santiago and Siddhartha have an emotional bond with Maria Alejandrina Cervantes and Kamala, but no serious relationship is created because they are not meant to be taken seriously. Maria Alejandrina Cervantes and Kamala do not serve as reliable female representations because they are more of a desire fantasized by men in the novels. Maria Alejandrina Cervantes and Kamala exist only when the males need to feel reassurance, strength, and comfort.