Among all characters depicted by Santiago, Ulvi is one of the most mysterious and, obviously, the most complex characters to analyze. Offering a plethora of food for thoughts, his actions can be translated in a million of ways, not to mention the implications that each of them has. In addition, Ulvi tells Esmeralda numerous important issues, yet it seems that he silences even more. One of the first and the foremost questions to ask what Ulvi needs Esmeralda for.
Is that the power of the true love that makes him act the way he does, teaching the young woman the way she can adapt to the European society, or is it his self-esteem that needs a patient and devoted student, a woman so helpless that he can take care and full control of? It cannot be argued that his nature and his motivations are the most obscure. Therefore, it is beyond any reasonable doubt that Ulvi is the character that requires thorough considerations and careful analysis.
Considering various peculiarities of Ulvi’s character and realizing what stands beyond his actions or words, one can approach the understanding of the role that Ulvi played in Esmeralda’s life. One of the greatest questions here is if this role was completely positive, as the author tries to depict it, or whether there was some element of sadness, which adds a bittersweet feeling to the entire experience. Moreover, it would be rather curious to find out if Ulvi himself learned something from Esmeralda as well.
No matter how inexperienced and unsophisticated Esmeralda used to be, there are certain reasons to suspect that the process of sharing knowledge between her and Ulvi was mutual. Hence, analyzing Ulvi’s character is one of the most essential steps to understanding the complete book.
Because of the power that Ulvi has over Esmeralda as he tries to teach her for entering the new world, one might suspect that Ulvi wants to assert himself with the help of the young and inexperienced girl that was caught in the realm of his influence.
Indeed, certain condescending tone and the element of patronage can be observed in the manners of the lead character. Taking a closer look at Ulvi and the way he treats Esmeralda, one can see distinctly that his motivation is to feel that the woman is under his protection and needs his patronage.
One of the most obvious evidences to this fact is the way that Ulvi calls his lover and addresses her. Naming her Chiquita, which is, actually, is translated as “little one” (Santiago 2) and talking to her as if she was a child: “I want you here with me” (Santiago 3), the Turkish lover displays his motivations as the patronizing and even somewhat parental ones.
Therefore, it can be assumed that the ethics and motivations that stand behind Ulvi’s actions concern raising his own self-esteem at the expense of Esmeralda’s independence. It is also quite peculiar that Esmeralda comments on Ulvi’s character using bilingualism whenever she refers to her Puerto-Rican past, Ulvi’s Turkish descent and the North American environment: “His name, Ulvi Dogan, sounded so foreign from my tongue” (Santiago 4).
When it comes to speaking of the internal life of the Turkish lover, Ulvi turns unexpectedly mysterious and secret, which also adds certain shade of attractiveness to his image and makes him even more desired for Esmeralda, one must mark that the writer never tells much about the external life that Ulvi leads either.
It is clear that the new acquaintance and the one true love of Esmeralda stands on his feet – depicted as a businessman with “mysterious connections” (Santiago 43), he provokes the most daring ideas about his ways of making his living.
Whenever Esmeralda tries to approach his mysterious inner life, he coaxes her, “Do not concern yourself” (Santiago 430. However, the Pandora’s box of his thoughts, ideas and inner world remains closed. Giving only slight hints about the internal life that her lover leads, Esmeralda clarifies that the heart of hearts of Ulvi is an obscure and weird place (Koprez 147).
It is clear that the Turkish lover makes his Chiquita as dependent on him as possible: “He tries to shape, define and fashion Santiago’s sense of self against the backdrop of his own cultural conventions and male sensibilities” (Koprez 147). Depriving the girl of the remnants of independence that she used to have, Ulvi seizes control over her to become her one and only patron, which speaks for his selfishness.
When taking a closer look at the things that surround Ulvi’s life, one plunges immediately into the realm of Muslim belief and the Muslim traditions (Korpez 147). Quite an enticing journey, this peculiar journey into a different culture is also an additional detail that makes the image of the Turkish lover complete.
It is quite curious that Ulvi does not flaunt his belonging to Turkish people. As Esmeralda marked, the only two Turkish words that she learned throughout being with Ulvi were Inshallah and kismet, which could be translated into English as “If Allah wills it” and “destiny” accordingly (Santiago).
Clarifying Ulvi’s religiousness, these words also mark that he is already shot through with the air of the North America, its lifestyle and traditions, yet he still keeps with the Muslim rules and traditions, which allows him to preserve his identity in the melting pot of cultures. It is quite peculiar that Ulvi knows English not so well, either: “He spoke English less than I did” (Santiago 6). Depicting him as strong-willed and decisive, these two short words speak much more than Ulvi wants them to.
Not quite surprisingly, Esmeralda manages to shape Ulvi the same way that he changed her. Though suggesting that the quiet and composed young Puerto-Rican had the guts to teach her own master something about the life as she knows it seems absurd at first, one must admit that the Turkish lover does change in the course of time.
At first, watching the humble and reserved nature of his protegee, the former seems to take even greater advantage of her: “It was less painful to be Chiquita for him [Ulvi] and Essie at work,” Esmeralda says, thus, making it clear that Ulvi barely made her forget her own self and could shape her nature the way he considered it best.
However, as time passed, one could start noticing that the impact that Santiago had on Ulvi was nonetheless important, which made the two people somewhat even. In the middle of their tumultuous relationships, he starts feeling that he loses her, which makes him somewhat rough towards his Chiquita: “You used to be prettier” (273).
However, as time passes and Ulvi sees that Esmeralda is no longer his Chiquita and wishes to free herself from the bonds of his patronage, he exposes his own uncertain, almost tender self – in his own way. Addressing her, he mentions briefly, “You have many men friends, Chiquita,” (323) – the simplest words with a storm of jealousness behind them.
There can be no doubt that in Esmeralda’s life the role of Ulvi was the one of a mentor. Teaching the inexperienced girl so that she could become a young woman and become a part of the foreign world and understand that she still can find the world where she belongs, Ulvi proves to be the leader in the couple and possess certain power over Esmeralda.
However, it is obvious that he does want to let her go, even though he knows that the process of parting will be obviously painful. Helping Esmeralda obtain her own name and feel her identity, yet allowing her to merge with another culture – a million of cultures that she has not seen before – Ulvi is still the man who wants to take his toll of influence over the Puerto-Rican girl.
It seems that the Turkish Lover is not even a specific character, but an all-embracing metaphor for the power that allows Esmeralda make the crucial step, the wind beneath her wings that takes her into the world of Americans, and yet makes her dependent on the power it gives her.
A part and parcel of the Puerto-Rican’s girl change into a woman who knows what she wants, Ulvi is practically a part of Esmeralda herself – the decisiveness that she lacks. Imperious and greedy for her affection, Ulvi knows that there will be the time when he has to let this woman go, and the bitter feeling he has when realizing it is the emotion that makes him earthy and real.
Santiago, Esmeralda. The Turkish Lover. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2005. Print.
Korpez, Elza. “Book Review.” Journal of American Studies of Turkey 23: 147-148. Print.