Woman Hollering Creek Summary

Sandra Cisneros

Woman Hollering Creek

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Woman Hollering Creek Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros.

“Woman Hollering Creek” was first published in Cisneros’s 1991 short story collection, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. Like most of the stories in the collection, it explores themes of immigration, gender politics, and Chicana or Mexican-American cultural identity, in this case through the tale of a young woman escaping an abusive marriage. The story begins with a description of Cleófilas Enriqueta DeLeón Hernández remembering her wedding and her father giving Juan Pedro permission to marry her and take her across the border to America. Specifically, she remembers her father saying that he would always be there for her and would always be her father. At the time, she had been too caught up in the romance of the moment to think about it, but now that she is a parent herself, she imagines that this was his prediction: one day she would long to escape her marriage and return home.

The reader then hears about Cleófilas’s background and learns that there was little to do in her hometown and that she had mainly entertained herself with telenovelas, aspiring to be like the women who starred in them. She copyied their hair and makeup, and even modified her wedding dress to resemble one she had seen on a show, but what she aspired to most was the passion. She watched the fiery, passionate relationships where the women suffered and were hurt but went on loving their volatile, hot-blooded men regardless, and she dreamed that her marriage would be that way.

Behind Cleófilas’s new home, where she moved with her husband after they married, is a river from which the story takes its title: Woman Hollering Creek. Cleófilas remembers the first time she crossed the creek and thought it a strangely unhappy name for such a beautiful and hope-filled place. From here, she remembers the first time her husband hit her and how she had been too shocked to defend herself, despite always believing that she would fight back against any man who struck her. When it happened, she could not even speak but simply stroked his hair as he cried and repented, as he would do again and again.

Cleófilas has to remind herself why she loves Juan Pedro. Unlike the passionate, handsome men of the telenovelas, he is not very tall, and he has an acne-scarred face, and a beer belly. He snores, farts, and burps, and has no romance or passion for her, only rudeness and demands for dinner and housework. She suspects him of being unfaithful. The first time she suspected was when she returned from the hospital after giving birth to their first child and found her belongings slightly out of place, but she dismissed this as her imagination. Sometimes, she thinks of returning to her father’s house but dismisses this too, not wanting to face the disgrace and the gossip. She suspects that the gossip in both her new and old hometowns works to keep desperate women stuck with their abusive and ungrateful husbands.

Sometimes, Cleófilas thinks of the creek as a means of escape, remembering the legend of La Llorona, a beaten woman who drowned her three children and then herself and now wanders as a ghost searching for her children and endlessly weeping. She wonders if La Llorona is the hollering woman after whom the creek is named and wonders if the creek is calling to her. She thinks of the stories, from neighbors and from the papers, of women beaten and bullied and killed in numerous ways by the men in their lives. She thinks of her husband’s violence and the way her life is now little more than sadness, suffering, and abuse.

Pregnant again, Cleófilas has to beg Juan Pedro to drive her to her appointment with the doctor. To convince him, she has to promise that she will keep the family looking smart, so as not to embarrass him, and promise to explain that her injuries are the result of an accident rather than her husband’s violence. However, at the appointment, she bursts into tears while seeing the doctor. Seeing how badly bruised Cleófilas is, the doctor, Graciela, recognizes the problem. She also recognizes that, as an immigrant isolated by language and culture, Cleófilas will get little help from the authorities in America. Speaking quietly so that Juan Pedro cannot hear from the adjoining room, Graciela calls her friend Felice and asks her to give Cleófilas a lift to the bus station to catch a Greyhound bus back to Mexico.

Terrified that Juan Pedro will appear and stop her leaving, Cleófilas waits for her ride. Felice arrives in a pickup truck and Cleófilas and her son get in. As they drive over the bridge, Felice startles them by yelling suddenly, and then apologizes for not warning them, explaining that she always hollers when she crosses Woman Hollering Creek. She observes that the creek is one of the few things in the area named after any woman other than the Virgin Mary and laughs. Cleófilas is fascinated and inspired by Felice—by her laughter, her shouting, and the fact that she is not married and drives a pickup truck that she chose and is paying for herself. The story ends with Cleófilas realizing that, this time, the laughter that she hears is not coming from Felice but from herself.

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories has won several awards and is widely praised by critics and the general public alike. Particularly celebrated are the way Cisneros centers Chicana women’s experiences while still making the stories accessible and relatable for other cultures, and her positive presentation of women resisting the confines of expected and accepted behavior.