Establishing The Picara As A Distinct Archetype: Some Observations And Conclusions

Ikeda, Allison
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
In reviewing the body of critical works on the picaresque genre and its protagonists ("picaro" for male and "picara" for female), one comes across many statements like the one in Rogue 's Progress, where Robert Alter claims that "[Thomas] Mann was fascinated by the archetype of the trickster; there is more than a touch of the picaroon in his Joseph" (125). Alter, like many other critics of the picaresque, use the labels of trickster and picaro a interchangeably, as if they refer to the same character type. Others further confuse readers by describing the picara as a female version of the picaro, the flip side of the picaro, etc. Only Anne J. Cruz describes the picara on her own terms in comparison to the picaro, rather than in terms of a character based on the picaro, but her description of the picara focuses almost entirely on her role as a prostitute, which is just one of the picara's possible peripheral traits. Anne Kaler dedicates a full book to the picara, but never defines her well enough to distinguish her from many other strong female literary figures, and goes (perhaps too) far beyond the usual designations of the picaresque in her endeavors. Marilyn Jurich, in her book on female tricksters, gives a very good analysis of what a figure like the the picara is and does, though she does not technically discuss the picara. To clear up much of this confusion, this paper will make several observations that should help to distinguish the archetypal picara from other female characters, the picaro and the trickster.
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