Formal abstract, Gabriela Mistral


Formal abstract


I want to write about Mistral’s connection to the natural and unnatural world with not only herself but her femininity. Mistral’s poetry is a social commentary on gender and her own sense of sensuality. Mistral’s writing spurred a great deal of activism; Mistral was universally recognized and respected as a social leader, author, and first Latin American to receive the Nobel peace prize. 



  • In the feminine mode: essays on Hispanic women writers

Noel Maureen Valis, Carol Maier


Compares Mistral’s work with that of other Hispanic writers. Valis and Maier claim that writers including Mistral “defined word and world in a distinctly feminine way”. Authors delve into the tension and topic of gender in Mistral’s word beginning with her pen name and story behind that. Authors also talk about how Mistral really broke the gender barrier on the way that women writers were supposed to talk about. Instead of talking about the “love of God, nature, the mother, the world’s just causes, and the humble” Mistral chose to write in realms dealing with topics such as transcending death, and manipulated the words to become her own style, talking about “dust, slumber, moonlight, and earthly imprisonment”, challenging all confines for female writers of the time.


  • Notes Towards a Definition of Gabriela Mistral’s Ideology

Fernando Alegria


Author Fernando Alegria shows Mistral in a different light than any other. Alegria writes how Mistral’s legacy is really in how she delivered her work through her oral poetry; the “improvised talks she gave at university halls or at private gatherings, the conversations she carried on all night, sipping her scotch whiskey and smoking cigarettes”. Alegria claims that “it is possible with the passing of time the oral poetry of Gabriela Mistral will be considered the most profound and valuable expression of her creative genius”. To me, this really shifted the image I had built of Mistral in my mind. Now, I view her more care-free, rebellious, hard-edged. With author Alegria focusing more on Mistral’s rebellious feminist, a young teacher who fought bigotry, social prejudice, hypocrisy, and dogmatism. Mistral was “a feminist from the start, supporting political reforms considered too radical by her superiors.” Mistral’s activism and a true passion for women’s rights are detailed in Alegria’s writing. Mistral “pointed at social conditions in Chile and suggested the need for agrarian reform, for laws intended to protect women’s rights.”


  • Profile of a Great Woman

Gonzalez, Manuel Pedro


A synopsis of Mistral’s life in general. Gonzalez talks about Mistral’s personality and being apart from her words and writing. Gonzalez states that Mistral’s “mind was ecumenic, and the welfare and destiny of mankind were her constant preoccupation. She was a true citizen of the world” and that “to say that she was an outstanding or eminent woman would be a trite affirmation, a banality that expresses nothing. It was not possible to meet her and talk to her without being deeply impressed by her forceful personality”. Gonzalez talks about Mistral’s physicality and her physical actions, movements, and appearance. 

Eight Puppies – Mistral

Eight Puppies

Gabriela Mistral

This poem really stood out to me when I read it because of its simplicity and tenderness. Mistral’s words caress you and surround you with warm words. Mistral’s last section of this poem especially stood out to me. I resonated with her statement of wishing to be born again in her next life amongst the puppies; begin again with a clean slate and be given another chance to live over every first experience, contributing to the motif of humanities desire to relive their childhood, begin their life again; to regain their youth.

Mistral’s voice enforces the closeness of her relationship to the natural, more-than-human world. She talks about how the puppies began to have their very first experiences in life, writing about how they “opened their eyes. They saw the world all at once, eager, scared, delighted.” She confessed she is enthralled by all the puppies, but that the puppies saw her “shrieking and then laughing.” She writes about how she looks into their mother’s eyes, connecting to a non-human figure, reinforcing the relationship between Mistral and the more-than-human world. Her voice describes her surroundings comfortably, content with the “flood of light” and “azaleas in the flower”; and in becoming one of these animals in another life, she too would be a “daughter of God”, becoming one of his angelic “obscure and sacred servants”.

The puppies play an active role in Mistral’s detailed experience. They are the protagonists in Mistral’s account. Seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing everything for the very first time, the puppies are portrayed as clambering around, fumbling over their own legs, teaching themselves how to run and jump, eight puppies launching their bodies, stumbling across the room’s floor. Leaving Mistral entranced, confessing her enchantment with the newborn animals, their ability “to run, to stop, to run, to tumble down and whine and jump up in delight”, how they are “shot through with sunlight”.

In the third and last stanza, Mistral shifts her narration from the puppies to her own observations occurring. Mistral uses the puppies as a metaphor for her relationship with God. The “man’s best friend” relationship shes newly experienced is her ideal relationship between herself and a higher being. She wishes to live carefree, to “bounce out from banana-groves”, but also under the comfort of a higher power, just as the puppies live under the protection of their mother.

This poem overwhelmed me with a sentimental and nostalgic feeling. The poem reminded me of life’s fragility and spontaneity. The quickness of life and in turn, death. Mistral illustrates a dreamy scene of young life,

triggering warm memories, reminding you of the earliest moments of your own life, moments between you and other humans and humanity, and moments between you and the more-than-human world. This poem connects with other works in class through the author detailing an experience that connected them with non-human living beings.

Eight Puppies

Gabriela Mistral

Between the thirteenth and the fifteenth day

the puppies opened their eyes.

They saw the world all at once,

eager, scared, delighted.

They saw their mother’s belly,

their door, which is my door,

the flood of light,

The azaleas in flower. 

They saw more; they saw each other,

red, black, grey;

waddling and clambering,

Friskier than squirrels,

they saw their mother’s eyes,

they saw me shrieking and then laughing.

And I wanted to be born with them.

Why not, the next time?

To bounce out from banana-groves

on a morning of marvels,

as a dog, she-coyote, doe -

to look with great dark eyes,

to run, to stop, to run, to tumble down

and whine and jump up in delight,

shot through with sunlight and barking,

daughter of God, obscure and sacred servant.

as if “Nature were holding her breath”

Muir became a leader of the transcendentalist writing movement alongside Thoreau and Whitman, but in a very different manner. Muir’s work lays in contrast to other authors because he views journeying out into nature as a more simple, wonderous action. Instead of insisting all abandonment to humanity such as Thoreau does, Muir writes with a childlike enchantment to the wild around him,  such as “I was fond of everything wild and all my life I’ve been growing fonder and fonder of wild places and wild creatures”. Muir characterizes the rocks as talkative and alive, personifying the water and wind. He contrasts with previous authors because he succeeds in sparking the human heart to want to venture out into nature, whereas Thoreau’s nature becomes almost too overwhelming to walk into.

Muir personifies the smallest and largest bits of the earth that others previously had skipped over. He wrote once that the surrounding atmosphere was almost as if  “nature were holding her breath”; emphasizing the connection and sensuality Muir not only felt towards the earth but also what he wrote. 

Muir was known as “the father of the national parks” and really believed in describing these wild places in an almost sensual way, persuading readers to venture out into the wilderness.

The Trouble with Wilderness; a response

William Cronon begins this excerpt of The Trouble with Wilderness by questioning wilderness’ identity as “the last remaining place where civilization.. has not fully infected the earth”, an “escape from our own too muchness.” Cronon makes the initial statement that wilderness is not actually a “pristine sanctuary”, but a place that allows the accepted views of a peaceful piece to overshadow its perverse unnaturalness; a place offering you intense emotions of something “profoundly other than yourself.”

The connotation around wilderness remained negative throughout the 18th century, grouped alongside “desolate”, and “barren”. But in the beginning of the 19th century, all the preconceived notions of American’s wilderness had been reimagined. Philosophers such as Thoreau and Muir began shifting America’s views of wilderness on their side. Muir declared in 1869 that there was “no description of Heaven that I have ever heard of read of seems half so fine.” after his visit to the Sierra Nevada; transforming “Satan’s home” into “God’s own temple.”

After a new American wilderness had been constructed, this theory of wilderness as a whole, to be accepted, had to be “loaded with some of the deepest values of the culture that created and idealized it.” Hence, the modern American wilderness: sacred, supernatural, sublime. Cronon recognizes that while God shows himself everywhere, that many turned to the ideal landscapes, vast and powerful, noting that with these romanticized places such as Yellowstone, Yosemite,  and the Grand Canyon, remind oneself of their own mortality, and thus the existence of a higher divine power.

In continuation of early philosophers writing, the idea of a luscious wilderness was supported by actions of Americans throughout the following decades and wars. Men with means were expected to “preserve for themselves some remnant of its wild landscape.”. An “uninhabited wilderness” was recreated by forcing Native Americans off their land to reinvent a frontier to be explored by the rich.

Furthermore, Cronon adds that our very notion of wilderness as an individual is what it is because it is formed from our own experiences, and seen from “the angle in which we regard it.” Thus, bringing America to it’s “Central paradox”, that this view of American’s wilderness is a “dualistic vision”,that if nature is true, then it must also be wild.