The short story Cotton Candy by Dora Alonso is about a woman on a journey of self-discovery. The setting is in Cuba, in a small town where life of the locals is closely knit. Lola makes and sells fabric door to door in the neighborhood; therefore she is poor. She is from a family background of limited means. Her family had moved to Cuba with practically no financial capacity to be known as famous people. Her approach to finding romance is a major hindrance to her starved sex life. Her first love is a butterfly that settles on the fabric making machine. She seems to take this as a sign that her joy in life will involve stating committed to the cotton candy. She grows successful with her fabric business and the people she deals with love it. Nevertheless, Lola’s life is empty as far as love and affection is concerned since she is abstaining according to the local culture. Because of her adoptive supportive role in the lives of other people, Lola is unable to her to see her life and therefore, she lacks the essential life force of her own will. Lola’s failure to come into terms with herself is evident from the fact that all her current relationships remain quite unsatisfactory, and yet, none of her many friends can help her overcome the empty self within her mind. Therefore, Lola is naïve when it comes to forming relationships that can last. Her approach puts off men; “marry me” or “I’ll set you up in a room” (Alonso 11). The blunt approach fails dismally and her dreams are slowly dying out and soon she shall be submerged below her demure personality.
The novel does a marvelous job in its ability to link impractical childhood fantasies with the harsh realities of the adult life. Lola expects that her romantic ideal will be that cultivated in her childhood with her first love. Lola is unable to fit her dreams into life perspective because of her interpreting her happiness from the dimension of other individual.
The character Lola is a humble woman who seems to have a perfect and contented life as an individual but since she is inwardly longing for someone to share her experiences with she remains unhappy for not being able to find her soul mate. Her friends are mainly her customers, who trust her to the extent of buying charity sweepstakes from her. She is a woman who is vulnerable to childhood fantasies, and sees them everywhere in nature. For instance she loves and associates with butterflies to represent love and copulating monkeys that arouse desire for sex. The desire to get love is so high that she cannot bear the pressure any longer she is willing to put her reputation at risk to get what she has always desired in her life. This transformation from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan; is the epitome of her feminine sexuality. She finally has the ability to live up to her potential, which she had greatly undermined all along. Lola is very peculiar in her relationship of love to butterflies. All her childhood boyfriends had to deal with dead butterflies whose relationship they could not see to the relationship. Little wonder why so many of these relationships failed; there are at least six of these destroyed romances by the time she celebrates her fifteenth birthday. Of note also, is the criteria she seems to apply to choose her partners; all of them have named starting with the letter D.
Her mother’s toughness was inhibiting of the true nature of her dreams. She was wild but had to tone down her ambitions. The long detachment from romantic relationships only served to fuel her childhood fantasies and ideas about relationships. The best recollection of her romantic history was back to when she was only seven, when she had her first love, whom she unknowingly pushed away by her sending her of gifts of dead butterflies. Her next break to an independent life was pushed by the demands of adulthood. She was completely engaged in the sewing work and years and years of working the pedal of the cotton candy took a heavy toll on her life. She forgot that there is more to life than meeting the demands of her job.
Her friends all seem to be living their lives to the fullest. She admires the boldness of her prostitute friend, her best client, whose choice in fashion she admires. The dressing and the mannerisms of her prostitute client made her to have a personality crisis. Her inner wild desires began to surface. She would see sexual imagery in almost anything she saw. The thought of having a fulfilling sexual relationship dominated her thoughts. Her client became her greatest inspiration to her dull life. The guilt cultivated in her childhood by her mother was slowly getting eroded and a mature woman less conscious of the societal biases was begging to replace the naïve lady she had been for the better part of her adult life.
The story starts with the description of a butterfly settling on the Cotton Candy, the fabric sewing machine. Lola admires the nature of the butterfly, its beauty, and its consciousness of it. The butterfly’s ability to live to the potential is according to Lola a stark contrast to her dull life. Though not in a romantic relationship, she has completely lost her sense of beauty and her greatest life, it appears, is that she has with her Cotton Candy. She is odd among her best friends, and when they go to have fun she is more than contented to take a backseat while they enjoy themselves. She comes to the realization and her mind wanders away in distraction. The fullness of life she observes among the park animals is beyond anything she has ever achieved in her life.
The incidents in the park mark the defining moment of her life; she observes and learns from the behavior of the park animals. She is extremely inspired by the full contentment with which they live their life. The single most desirable need in her life at the moment is romance. She can hardly remember the last time she had a romantic relationship. She has lost confidence in her sexual appeal and she does not like that at all. The Cotton Candy obsession is momentarily replaced with the need to develop this important part of her life. She had constantly pushed it aside to establish her life as an independent but now she felt the time had come to live again.
The Cotton Candy is practically the whole definition of her life. When Lola goes to the park with her friends, nature gives her a new revelation that inspires her to make drastic changes in her life. The sexual association she witnesses among the park animals is very captivating to her. She imagines herself enjoying her life to the full, especially when it comes to her sex life. She constantly personifies the animals in the park using descriptions of human sexual behavior. The “romantic” relationships of the animals inspire her to give herself a complete makeover. She gets rid of her dull matronly dresses she had always looked contented in and aimed purposed to be as confident as a runway model. She puts on make-up, puts on high heels and when she looks in the mirror she sees the Lola she once was smiling back at her. Along the street she sees a man she fancies, who looks back in consent. This might just be the moment she had always dreamed of, hopefully. She learns how to live like a butterfly, free and uninhibited. What she wants is romance, and she has sure signs to get it.
This story should be an inspiration an inspiration to women who have distorted views of romance. Many women create worlds in which only their fantasies can survive. The reality requires greater maturity and a realistic approach involving huge risks. The societal stereotypes are at times fatally overrated among many young women looking for romance. Some of the upbringing some of the women go through creates a deep sense of guilt which puts them at war with their desires. The story calls on women to rise above these limitations to enjoy the freedom of the reality of their dreams. Anything is achievable with the right attitude and the willingness to take bold risks.
One thing the novel teaches is that we have the reigns to our happiness, and not the society. The only thing the society can do is judge what actions we take, and that should be the least of our concerns in the pursuit of our personal fulfillment.