The House on the Lagoon Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will analyze 'The House on the Lagoon' by Rosario Ferre. This is a semi-autobiographical book about an author who faces criticism from her husband for writing about some of the stories from their ancestral line.

Isabel and Quintin

How would you feel if someone wrote a story revealing your family's secrets? In The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre, Quintin Mendizabal is appalled when he discovers the book that his wife, Isabel Monfort, is writing is about both of their families. He feels that some of the material is historically inaccurate and that she is making them look bad. Isabel defends her decisions as she recognizes that different people may perceive things differently. Let's analyze this novel.

Author's Background and Setting

The House on the Lagoon is the first novel that the popular Puerto Rican feminist writer Rosario Ferre first published in English. Like Isabel, Ferre grew up in a wealthy family from Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican setting of the story, as well as the time period when the story takes place, is significant. Buenaventura, Quintin's father, emigrates from Spain to Puerto Rico on July 4, 1917, which is ''the same day President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act, which granted us American citizenship.'' Politically, there are factions of Puerto Ricans, such as Quintin's family, who embrace American capitalism and want Puerto Rico to become a state. There are other groups, symbolized by Isabel's family who want Puerto Rico to be independent. Isabel's struggle for independence together with Quintin's fear of her independence run parallel to the events of the time.

Point of View and Structure

Ferre uses a unique structure to both describe the events of the past both from Isabel and Quintin's perspectives. Much of the book is Isabel's written account of the history of their families through a series of short stories that give insight about their parents, grandparents, and other family members. This alternates with a third person narrator who describes Quintin's thoughts and feelings when he reads his wife's novel. These chapters are italicized to indicate that the narration style has changed.

Characterization and Themes

The main characters of the story are Quintin and Isabel with the conflict about what is true and whether or not it should be exposed being at the center of the story. There are a large number of characters in the form of extended family who also appear in the story. Each generation of each family has one or more chapters describing their background, marriage, and any relevant stories that help describe the themes.

One of the themes of the story is about perspective and how history can be altered. For example, Aristides Mendizabal, Quintin's maternal grandfather, went to school at a time when Puerto Rico's history was not taught. The only history he learned was American history. From this one-sided perspective, he loved everything about America and pushed for Puerto Rican's statehood. Similarly, when Quintin reads what Isabel wrote about his parent's marriage, he is appalled and denies that there was any seriousness to their problems.

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