Prof. Steve Tillis
Collegiate Seminar 123
Of Love and Other Demons, The Escape of Delaura and Sierva Maria
When an individual finds the person who makes them happy, that person they can trust and will not give up on them regardless of what happens, the individual becomes a whole new person. That is the case of Sierva Maria; most see her as a possessed, evil young girl who has gone crazy, while Delaura sees the complete opposite. If we compare Sierva Maria from the girl she is at the beginning of the novel living in her basement, to the girl she becomes in the convent, most would be afraid to approach her. They would say she is a demon, but Delaura considers her a beautiful, amazing individual. He portrays her as an “angel” who deserves to be free and happy. Therefore he has an urge to save her from the evils of the demons such as the priest and women in the convent; he knows they will destroy her. Delaura feels the responsibility of protecting Sierva because he seems to be the only one who sees her true self, her true identity. He becomes determine to save her, which turned into an obsession that he calls love.
Throughout the story their relationship becomes an escape. For Sierva Maria, it is an escape of her unwanted life that she is living, the unwanted parents that reject her, and the unwanted demons that are trying to take over her life. She has learned to trust him to protect and love her. For Delaura, although he seems to have a stable, satisfied life, he is missing love. He knows that if he committed himself to Sierva he would risk all the good that is part of his life, but he is willing to escape from that life, he was ready for a different episode in his life, for love.
Throughout the novel we see Sierva Maria at a young age experiencing a terrible life, a life that a twelve year old should not be living. But who is to blame for this? She has no love from her parents and it is only expressed love and a sense of care from the slaves. The rejection of her parents and the accusation that she has rabies made her vulnerable and made her believe that she is not capable of becoming a loved individual, or capable of becoming anyone. A professor tries “to teach her to read and write, she refused because she said she could not understand the letters” (44); she does not feel as if she is suitable for anything, therefore she makes up excuses to not learn. “Her mother hated her from the moment she nursed her for the first and only time and then refused to keep the baby with her for fear she would kill her” (42), her own mother hates her, which makes her feel miserable, it is as if she has no mother. Therefore in a way Sierva Maria gives up on a happy life, but that all changes when Delaura comes along. Delaura gives her hope and an opportunity to actually be happy. When he first approaches her she is afraid of letting him in her life, because she is an individual who trusts no one. She feels as if she can only depend on herself and believed Delaura is only trying to make up lies about her; She sees him as a demon who is trying to control her life like every one else. But that did not stop Delaura, he does not believe the rumors of the priest and others saying that she is possessed. “The fundamental task, however, was to establish whether Sierva Maria was in reality possessed. He did not believe so, but he required the assistance of the Marquis to dispel any doubt” (110), he is determined to settle this case, he is not going to let go of what he believes.
His urge, his determination of not letting Sierva Maria become destroyed turns into an obsessive love. It first begins with a passion that he strongly believes. The research that he devoted himself in finding evidence for his beliefs only strengthens his passion, he is positive that he could help her, “[I feel] as if I had the wings of the Holy spirit” (84). The rejections of Sierva Maria when he would visit her, only make him stronger; he is not willing to give up on her. The attacks that he receives from her, do not mean he has lost the war, but only the first battle, as he is attacked the first time “he displayed his wounds as if they were battle trophies, and scoffed at the danger of contracting rabies” (pg. 85). Delaura knows what he wants and he is going to go after that regardless of the obstacles that come his way. He wants to prove that Sierva Maria is not possessed. As he continues and struggles to fight to receive Sierva’s acceptance, his passion begins to turn into an obsessive love towards her, he imagines telling her “for you was I born, for you do I have life, for you will I die, for you am I now dying” (88). That love becomes so strong that he is willing to give up his life for her. He wants to escape from his position as Father Cayetano Delaura and start a new life with Sierva. He is willing to take risks, because his love is so strong that all he wanted was her.
This obsessive love that he begins to feel is unexpected not only for Sierva, and many others but also for him. Because he is first hesitant to take the case of Sierva, he does not believe he is capable of being responsible for her exorcism, and he seems afraid. He tells the bishop, “I am not an exorcist, father, I do not have the character or the training or the knowledge to claim to be one. Besides, we know that God has set me on another path” (76). But by him accepting the responsibility that is where it all began. It starts with a belief that Sierva is not possessed and that took over his life because he knew he had to do something to prove it. In a way a demon inside of him began to control his life. He is not possessed but by demon I mean that a new personality arouse, appeared in him, a new attitude that those who know him become confuse and cannot understand his actions; “The bishop was disturbed that he had not come to read at supper. Delaura realized he was floating on a personal cloud where nothing in this world or the next mattered except the horrific image of Sierva Maria debased by the devil” (118). He has become a new person and that was part of the first step in escaping from his recent life, he is only focused on Sierva Maria. When one has high beliefs about a certain situation they do not give up, their attitude changes to achieve what they want. That is what Delaura does; he wants a change in his life. He has a new attitude, and now what he needs is Sierva to complete his escape and start a new life. That is where the relationship leads him to, an escape of his everyday life, an escape of the usual people around him an escape of being alone—Sierva Maria completes him, his life.
Sierva Maria has nothing to lose in escaping, her whole life is a disaster and she only feels as a bother for everyone around her. The relationship gives her hope and love. The hope and love she wishes she had for the twelve years of her life. Because during those twelve years all she hears are complains about her as she done nothing, accusations while there is nothing wrong with her, but no sense of care, no love. She never hears an “I love you” or “what do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What makes you happy”? It was never about her. She is a child that experiences more than one child should have ever experienced in twelve years.
She is not possessed, does not have rabies but since most people believe she does, she goes along with it. Why? Because she has nothing to lose, her life is already a wreck, she could trust no one and has no hope. But instead of helping her situation she gets herself into a deeper hole, meaning she only makes her life worse. Her actions make people believe they are correct in accusing her of being possessed and having rabies. “She shoved away the warders, who attempted to subdue her, climber onto the table, and ran from one end to the other in rampage of destruction, shrieking as if truly possessed” (68). The demons around her such as the priest, her father, and Josefa Miranda, the abbess do not help her life, they are only trying to find ways to supposedly take out the demon inside of her, but the reality is that they themselves are only hurting her. They are the demons who are affecting her life. And unfortunately most of those demons like her father are individuals that have the responsibility to be there for her, to save her from her situation.
But they are not the only ones to blame; she can also be considered a demon that finishes her own life. The demon of denial, of failure, of helpless is taking control over her life and instead of fighting the rumors she gives in. Her attitude has to do a lot with where she ends up at the end of the story; she is not completely blamed, but she definitely could have prevented the ending of her life if she could have acted with a positive attitude. Life is how one makes it, we have control of most of the situations that happen in our life, and our reaction towards those situations is what determines what happens next. Therefore Sierva could have prevented her situation at an extent that she would not have been sent to the convent. Her life could have been better, she could have enjoyed her childhood and most of the situations she experienced throughout life could have been different, even to the extent that Delaura would never have entered her life. But her life ended how it did mostly because of her decisions.
Therefore, throughout her twelve years Sierva Maria wants the opportunity to enjoy her childhood, but that is almost impossible when obstacles continue to come her way, and every one is against her. Delaura turns her world upside down. He becomes the only one who actually listens to her, shows her he cares, and shows her love. Sierva Maria learns to rely on him to make her feel worth of being an individual, to make her feel happy. This reliance she has on him turns into love, into the love that she has never received or shown towards another individual. He is the only individual she sees with joy, the one she treats with no violence and actually has a conversation with him. When she is with him, that is her escape of her miserable life, he makes her feel as an individual and not a demon. She knows that with him she will have a joyful future ahead. “She kept the cell clean and neat for the moment he arrived with all the naturalness of a husband returning home. Cayetano taught her to read and write and initiated her into the cults of poetry and devotion to the Holy Spirit, anticipating the happy day when they would be free and married” (128). Love has taken over her life because she is able to express herself without fear and is shown by Delaura that she is important in his life.
Love has taken over the life of both Delaura and Sierva, their relationship is strengthened thorough their courage of being capable of escaping from their old lives and begin a new episode together. The relationship is an escape, a route to happiness and for a better future. But that route of happiness does not last for a long time, it ends soon as they become separated as if love was another demon. A demon that only tricked them into happiness but at the end it ended with sadness. It seems as if Sierva is not meant to be happy, various demons always attack her and prevent her from enjoying life. The fact is that there are always going to be individuals and other “demons” that will want to prevent another individual from being happy, it is part of life, part of some individuals nature. But one has to decide how they are going to react to a certain situation. The demons can be blamed for causing evil but it depends on the individual how that is going to end, affect their lives. One cannot always get what they want but life is too short to not enjoy it. Sierva Maria and Delaura’s relationship portray an escape of their original lives to seek happiness, to make the best of life, but are not able to prevent the demons from taking over their lives.