Setting and Plot in Puig's and Levi's

Setting and Plot in Puig's And Levi's Novels

In both "Kiss of the Spider Woman" by Manuel Puig and "If This Is a Man" by Primo Levi both setting and characterization help develop the plot very directly. Plot is developed through the characters tales of their lives, whether fictional or real life to help lift the characters from their oppressive environments. Characterization is as important as setting in each novel explored because in both novels the characters themselves and their environment help shape the plot and enhance the readers understanding of the characters experience.

In Puig's novel for example the very narrative foundation of the work and plot is derived from the characters, who tell a story to one another (Brent, 2000). In this case Molina's tale of his favorite movie is a means through which the plot is developed. Here Molina uses the movie story to escape the social and environmental restrictions that are evident in the prison they are living in (Brent, 2000). The reader while reviewing this story has to construct their own idea of plot based on the characters interactions, the setting and the dialogue or discussion shared between the two (Brent, 2000).

The plots of both works are similar, conveying a sense of loneliness, misery and depression.

One is set in a prison cell, the other a concentration camp. In "Kiss of the Spider Woman" two very different characters, Valentin, a Marxist revolutionary and Molina, a homosexual window dresser are confined within four walls. In "If This Is a man" the fascist militia arrests Primo. There are four different settings including the train, the concentration camp, the Chemistry laboratory and the Ca-Be (Ch 1, p 24 the prisoners were cramped in the train with no food or water, Chapter 2, extermination camp, these two settings conveyed submission and death, Ch, 15 at the chemistry laboratory, the setting is totally different, clean, polished and has more freedom. At the Ka-be, at least the prisoners do not have to work, in fact Primo is saved by staying at the Ka-be during the last ten days (Ch. 17).


The plot in Puig's novel is developed as Molina shares with his partner a fictional account of a movie. Evident throughout this work is the importance of setting and characterization on plot development. In "Kiss of the Spider Woman," in the cell, Valentin and Molina experience transformation of characters and feelings towards each other. The environment fosters changes. (Ch. 2 p. 28 Valentin talk about social revolution, pursuit of Marxism ideology, all other things come secondary. He mocks at Molina for being womanly as that kind of behaviour can get in a man's way. P. 29, as we move to Chapter 5 when Molina is sick, Valentin shows concern that he should go to the infirmary. Chapter 6 Valentin accepts Molina's care when Valentin is sick. Valentin is eager to listen to Molina's stories.

Up until this part we see Valentin's attitude has changed towards Molina, Valentin also confides in Molina about his private life like girlfriends. Chapter 11 the change in Valentin toward Molina reaches c climax, they have sexual relationship in the cell. In Chapter 14 p. 251 Valentin has asked Molina to pass on information to his comrades when Molina is released. Molina firmly replies no. But on p. 263 just before he is released, Molina is willing to help Valentin by passing on messages to his comrades. This part we witness the transformation of Molina too.).

In "If This Is a Man," physical torture and mental deterioration lead the plot. This plot is developed through Levi's description of his environment or setting and day-to-day existence. His summary or diary if you will of his day-to-day existence in multiple settings is the very foundation for the novel. In this work transformation also occurs, which serves to thicken the plot. The transformation is not nearly as clear-cut however as it is in Puig's novel, but is nonetheless equally important. In this case transformation occurs in the chemistry laboratory, where Levi's thoughts revive. In Ka-Be he is saved. The settings and how Primo behaves help shape the story line.

Comparison Of Works

In both novels the settings and characters affect the plot. In each instance the characters attempt to rise above their gloomy existence through narrative. This is done via use of a fictional telling in Puig's novel, and Levi's real life day-to-day encounters in his work. In "Kiss of…