Women in Ridge’s The Life & Adventures of Joaquín Murieta
His novel The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit Ridge presents the readers with the image of women as the independent backbone of operations and peacekeepers. This essay will focus on the first prompt, discussing the roles of strong Chicana women in Ridge’s novel. It will begin by evaluating the importance of naming the female characters and the context in which it occurs. Further, it will examine how women create a peaceful alternative to the violence in the novel by appealing to the emotional side of male characters. Lastly, this essay will consider Mexicana women as independent feminist manifestations and self-fending partners rather than mere backdrops to the male characters.
The author emphasizes the female personality formation and its role in the story by obscuring their identities until each woman becomes the focus of the action. Throughout the story’s first half, women are seldom called by name but instead by various epithets relating them to their men. Rosita, Carmelita, and Margarita accompanying the Mexican bandits on their raids are described respectively as “Joaquín’s mistress, and those of Reyes Feliz and Pedro Gonzalez” (Ridge 20). Rosita, for instance, is referred to as Joaquín, “heart’s treasure,” “his sweet and faithful friend,” as well as other words of affection and trust (Ridge 7, 20).
An important clarification is that the names were not omitted entirely; for example, Carmelita’s name is mentioned once early. However, the language is descriptive – Carmelita is not an actor in the scene; she is described as a background element for her husband (Ridge 17). Overall, the refusal to name the women as actors is initially so persistent that the moments of identification strike powerfully, clarifying women’s roles in the narrative as powerful alternatives to male leadership.
Each female naming scene is triggered by the injury or death of a husband or brother, all active gang members. The first scene occurs when Reyes Feliz gets wounded by a grizzly bear, and Carmelita stays by his side to care for him (Ridge 39). The second fundamental scene is Reyes Feliz’s hanging by Americans, which is where Rosita becomes an acting member of the scene, grieving for her brother (Ridge 34). Lastly, Ridge (46) portrays an image of Margarita when she kills her abusive husband, Guerra. Margarita’s naming is especially striking since her name is only mentioned once in the story, directly after describing her rejuvenation upon freeing herself (Ridge 46). Set in an emotional context, these moments define each woman as an individual in her own right, not merely a member of a group or an appendage of the man she accompanies. These moments also demonstrate the applicability and importance of their influence in various situations discussed further.
The female characters in The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta place compassion, love, and grief above aggression and law; moreover, they prioritize empathy above racial division. Women in the story possess the capacity to provide a counternarrative to the violence and division perpetrated by male characters. For instance, the act of Rosalie directly interrupting the brewing conflict between her lover Edward and Joaquín, who just saved her:
Edward drew his revolver half out, but Rosalie touched his arm and, with a reproachful look, said to him, “Fie, fie, Edward, you forget yourself. You wouldn’t harm the man who has restored me to your arms? Why, Edward, would you make me despise you? I care not if he were a robber a thousand times, he is a noble man; shake hands with him,” and taking his hand with her left, and the robber’s with her right, she joined them together with a gentle force. (Ridge 57).
This scene exemplifies how both American and Mexican women successfully plead for lives to be spared and for the bloodshed to stop at various points in the narrative.
Women in this story bridge the cultural and racial divisions that the American-Mexican war has rooted so deeply in the hearts of men. Ridge (57) describes Rosalie appealing directly to Edward’s love for her and, by extension, to his gratitude to Joaquín. Female characters force the reader to recognize Mexican bandits as men by recalling their roles as husbands and brothers. By bestowing Mexicana women with traits such as compassion and resiliency, Ridge reinforces unique female capabilities in the story to push for a union rather than affirm the male desire for independence and confrontation.
Furthermore, The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta goes beyond having the women wallow in grief by intermittently portraying their autonomy. While women provide a counternarrative and depth to the male roles, they also maintain the central characters’ basic plot. Both Mexican and American women manage to hold their own in a war-torn world of criminals while creating space for cooperation and peaceful interaction of male protagonists, thus breaking the novel’s established tone. Men often “leave women to shift for themselves,” but not because they do not care about their wives and mistresses – rather, it is because they trust women to take care of themselves (Ridge 22). Women have the responsibility not only for themselves but for their entire community. The narrative emphasizes female autonomy not only for Rosita, Carmelita, and Margarita; when, for instance, Captain Love invades the camp, a woman raises the alarm (Ridge 22). While going as far as calling some of the characters’ feminist heroes’ is probably not grounded enough in the story, this essay still recites plentiful examples of women’s independence and its effect on the narrative.
To conclude, women play numerous roles in the narrative, extending beyond background characters. Firstly, uncovering female identity through the sparring use of names brings intense focus to each of the three main Mexicana women, presenting them as compelling alternatives to the male-focused narrative. Secondly, the female characters bring depth to male characters by appealing to their roles as fathers, husbands, and brothers. Women possess the emotional qualities that allow them to act as agents of peace, counteracting the violent divide between men. Lastly, while women in this story are portrayed as independent agents in this story, they nonetheless carry more traditional roles. These roles do not undermine their autonomy, but it is tough to envision the female role in this narrative as unquestionably feminist.
Ridge, John Rollin. The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit. Third, F. MacCrellish & CO, 1874.