One of the most touching novels ever, the story of a young woman entering the world of different cultures, the world so splendid that it is almost blinding her, and her guide to this beautiful universe, the Turkish lover, offers a plenty of food for thoughts. Considering the development of the lead character, the young woman, and watching her growing from a young inexperienced girl into a sophisticated woman is truly delightful.
Obviously, the lead character has a long way to go before changing from a faceless Chiquita into proud and self-assured Esmeralda, yet the latter flush into such an organic sequence that it becomes rather complicated to see the specifics of the young woman’s evolution. It is evident that the lead character crosses certain barriers, yet pointing out each and tracing the hard way that Esmeralda has to go, as well as the changes she suffers is essential for understanding the character.
Obviously, the way a has-been Chiquita used to view the life and understand it changes completely in the course of her relationships with her Turkish lover. Once taking the decisions step towards the unknown, the lead character changes her attitude towards the whole idea of living completely.
As Esmeralda told herself, “I entered the car smiling, certain that there would be more missed trains in my life, more closed doors in my face, but there would always be another train rumbling down the tracks in my direction” (343). From this time on, Esmeralda’s point of living is learning the new and getting used to the lifestyle that she has never experienced before – she is entering the splendid society of the new world that is too far from her traditional Latin environment.
One of the most unbelievable things about Esmeralda Santiago – both the real woman and the character in the book – is the fact that the woman lived between two languages and two cultures – the Puerto-Rican one and the one of the USA.
In The Turkish Lover, however, the third – the Turkish one – is added to the whole whirlpool of traditions and customs that the character is completely tangled in. It must be admitted that Esmeralda soon starts understanding how miserable and cheap is the life she used to live in her Puerto-Rican environment: “If you teach a man to fish, he will eventually grow tired of mackerel and want lobster” (218).
However, as soon as Esmeralda learns the ins and outs of the new world she enters, the character realizes that her family, with all its Puerto-Rican simplicity and being absolutely unsophisticated is not something to be ashamed of, but, on the contrary, the greatest treasure that she has ever had in her life.
Even though Esmeralda feels that she needs someone’s help to reach the top and live the life of the high class, the elite that she used to stand in awe of and almost to deify, she does need to overcome certain cultural prejudice and trust the Turkish man whom she falls in love with. Moreover, the writer emphasizes that, entering the new world of the life in USA, she also has to sacrifice certain cultural values of hers to adjust to the American lifestyle, the people’s culture and traditions.
However, it is necessary to mark that the Puerto-Rican cultural norms are not forgotten either – the lead character keeps them deep in her heart as the greatest treasure she can ever have, even though some of the Puerto-Ricans scorn at the change that happens to her: “Alabate pollo, que madana te guisan. Boast now, chicken, tomorrow you’ll be stew” (337). The glitter of the streets of gold does not blind her.
Hence, there is no doubt that Esmeralda changed her vision of life, as well as the cultural norms that she had drunken in with her mother’s milk.
One of the greatest efforts the woman had ever taken in her entire life, the attempt to see the world with the eyes of different people and understand how beautiful and versatile it could be was well worth the metamorphoses that the lead character had to undergo. Even though the process of disillusioning was quite painful at times, the result turned out rewarding. Esmeralda is confident and happy now.
Santiago, Esmeralda. The Turkish Lover. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2005. Print.