There could not be two more different portraits of family life than those described by Theresa de la Parra in Memorias de Mamá Blanca
and by Marta Brunet in “Piedra callada”. The first takes place in Eden; the protagonists exist in an idyllic state before sickness, injustice, and want. Nature is beautiful and fertile, the girls embrace it with imagination and wonder, and it yields a variety of goods to the family. When a death occurs, such as that of the calf, it does so peacefully. The family is ideal, the girls are pretty and bright, they adore their mother and respect their father. They live a life free of hardship.
The second takes place in an environment of entrapment, antagonism, and manipulation. The family is a group of creatures snarling, consuming, procreating, and perishing their way through a world determined by the survival-of-the-fittest. Nature is a volatile element that produces obstacles and danger, and it must be laboured upon to provide sustenance for the family. The protagonists are at the bottom of the social hierarchy, ragged and neglected children, a dumb brute of a man, an older woman without support, and a poor girl physically destroyed by multiple unhealthy childbirths. Nothing in life comes easily, and the characters react to their circumstances with explosive and poisonous anger or silent conniving to secure personal interests at any cost.
Still, the families are similar in their essential roles and power relations. For example, the role of child bearer dominates the character of the mothers, from the doomed Esperanza, unable to avoid pregnancy and unable to continue giving birth, to the mother of Blanca Nieves, who leaves the hacienda periodically and exclusively for this purpose. The children, mostly nameless, roam around in packs. The role of the fathers is the unequivocal master of the house. Both are men of few words, but these dominate over everyone, and neither touches domestic affairs such as raising children or tidying the household.
However, an important factor limits making simple comparisons of the two families, one beautiful and the other basic. The first story focuses on the experience of children and the second on the experience of adults. Leaving aside differences in the standard of living between the children of both stories, they are all reasonably happy. However, we know very little about the parents of Blanca Nieves. Why, for example, do we never hear them speak to one another? Perhaps if the memories in this story were those of an adult, there would have been just as much manipulation, competition, and animosity at Piedra Azul. It all depends on perspective.span365