Dos Palabras by Isabel Allende: Author, Summary & Theme

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  • 0:04 Isabel Allende
  • 0:52 ''Dos Palabras'' Summary
  • 2:44 Courage, Loneliness,…
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

Dos Palabras follows the tale of a brave woman who finds her power and strength in the face of some terrifying events. Check out this lesson to read a summary of the story and for an analysis of the story's main themes.

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende stated, ''The most important things about my life happened in the secret chambers of my heart and have no place in a biography.'' With that being said, there are a few important details to know about her life. She was born on August 2, 1942 to Chilean parents in Lima, Peru. Growing up, she studied and mastered English as a second language and enjoyed reading Shakespeare's works. She worked as a writer and translator and eventually created her own pieces of literature. Much of Allende's writing focuses on empowering women and portraying female characters as strong and capable. It's often said the pen is mightier than the sword. This cliche alludes to the immense power of words, a fact strongly supported in Isabel Allende's short story ''Dos Palabras''.

''Dos Palabras'' Summary

''Dos Palabras'' is a tale about Belisa Crepusculario's story of creating a life for herself as a writer. She grew up poor and hungry. After four of her younger brothers and sisters died, presumably of hunger, she ''decided to set out across the plains in the direction of the sea, in hopes that she might trick death along the way.'' On her journey, Belisa found a newspaper and quickly decided to learn to write. She figured that selling words would be the best career.

One day, she's sitting in her tent when someone named El Mulato sends a group of men to nab her. El Mulato is a soldier and feared by women, men, chickens, and dogs alike. He tells Belisa that his friend, another scary soldier guy, named the Colonel, needs her services. Trembling, she asks what he needs.

As it turns out, the Colonel is tired of waging war, eating iguanas in the fields, and most of all, he's tired of being a terrifying figure. He wants people to love him. The Colonel plans to become president, so he needs a good speech. Belisa agrees to write the speech for him. Since he cannot read, she recites it and everyone in the camp loves it. Belisa then whispers two special words in his ear and then leaves. The Colonel goes on the campaign trail repeating the speech again and again to anyone who would listen.

As the days pass, the Colonel begins to decline. Eventually, the Colonel admits that the two words whispered to him are behind his emotions. Our narrator tells us ''his senses were inflamed with the memory of her feral scent, her fiery heat, the whisper of her hair, and her sweetmint breath in his ear.'' Fearing this is the work of a witch, El Mulato finds Belisa and brings her to the Colonel. The men realize that Belisa will not be killed as she walks over and takes his hand. The story ends here, leaving us to wonder what the words were and what will happen next.

Courage, Loneliness, and Gender

A theme is the main idea being explored in a story. Aside from the main storyline, what's going on in ''Dos Palabras''? The main themes are loneliness and courage, which tie into the overarching theme of gender as a social construction. Let's take a closer look at what all that means.

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