Kiss of the Spider Woman tells the story of two very different cell mates, Molina and Valentín. Molina is a city dwelling effeminate homosexual who dresses windows for a living while Valentín is a student and member of an anti-goverment revloutionary group. Molina is imprisoned on the charge of “corruption of a minor” and Valentín is a political prisoner. Throughout the course of the novel the two characters become close, forming a relationship that will in one sense destroy them, and in another save them.
Manuel Puig tells this story without a narrator, instead relying entirely on the dialog of the characters. Several devices enrich this storytelling, including the characters’ own stories. Molina has a great love of film and frequently relates one or another of his favorite movies to Valentín. Another device is the generous use of footnotes offereing psychoanalytic theory of homosexuality. Manuel successfully creates a very unique storytelling environment which lends itself well to the plot. The novel as a whole has a very deep parallel sturcture immediately evident in the contrast between the two main characters. Other contrasts presented include those between social norms vs. social fringes, complacency vs. non-complacency.
Although primarily an author, Manuel Puig had worked in television and radio and his writing style, particulary in Kiss of the Spider Woman, incorporates elements of these media. The novel, written while Puig was in exile, has since been made into a play, a musical and a film. In novel form, I found it entertaining and insightful, and found the social commentary useful.