Whereas philosophers and theologians have been debating the inherent morality of mankind since the dawn of human existence, arguing whether man is ultimately evil or good, Isabel Allende in “And of Clay Are We Created,” casts humanity in a light of contradiction or nuance, suspended somewhere in between the dichotomy of wickedness and righteousness, and as subject to an impotence that makes lofty notions of morality difficult to properly discern.
This moral murkiness is perhaps best demonstrated in her depiction of the numerous reporters who arrive at Azucena’s mud pit with “spools of cable, tapes, film, videos, precision lenses, recorders, sound consoles, lights, reflecting screens, auxiliary motors, cartons of supplies, electricians, sound technicians, and cameramen” beaming “Azucena’s face…to millions of screens around the world” (1129).
All of these reporters undoubtedly know of Azucena’s impending death, and yet they come with cameras instead of the tools to bring her salvation.
But calling these men bad for their dedication to spectacle at the expense of salvation complicates the character of Rolf Carlé, who himself is one of the reporters capturing Azucena’s slow death on camera so the rest of the distant world may see.
However, it is nearly impossible to insinuate that Rolf Carlé is morally inept considering his dedication and profound love for Azucena. Recall that is was Rolf Carlé who “struggled with poles and ropes,” who kept her afloat with a tire, who dived into the mud in an attempt to remove the rubble, but each time could not set her free. It was Rolf Carlé who begged the world for a pump, on multiple occasions, who stayed up with her nights on end, distracting her with stories in an effort to keep her alive (1126 – 1127 & 1231).
Such love cannot be called depravity.
And yet, effectually, Rolf Carlé is no better than the rest of the reporters. His presence, like theirs, brought no practical salvation, and while one could argue, “Well, at least he tried to save her, unlike those other reporters,” it is equally true that he did not send his crew to fetch a life-saving pump with their helicopter.
Now, it is true that Rolf Carlé approached his job as a journalist as one who intended to help others. His continuous begging for a pump caught the attention of the protagonist, if no one else, to labor and search for the means by which to save Azucena (1228). Further, it is true that if he had not recorded Azucena’s plight, then no distant person would even know to send help, and he undoubtedly needed his recording crew to do so.
However, in that case, the other reporters, also, are most likely only guilty of begging the masses for help. Perhaps, they too, are striving to save her as best as they know how, with a camera and an earnest plea to others. Perhaps instead of being evil and seeking sordid gain, these reporters, just like Rolf Carlé, are impotent in the face of such a disaster.
In this case, perhaps what Allende suggests is neither that the reporters were good nor that they were bad, but rather that man is feeble, and that even his greatest efforts of moral goodness and help do not move or persuade the omnipotent forces of nature.
Despite Rolf Carlé’s great efforts, Azucena “sank slowly, a flower in the mud” (1231).
Allende, Isabel. “And of Clay Are We Created.” Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. Norton Anthology of World Literature. III ed. Vol. F. London, New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 1225-231. Print.
Lotus flower in the mud. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016. <https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/f4/21/b0/f421b0ab619b8b64bf05f9982f91cf11.jpg>.