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Abstract

The Chilean author, Diamela Eltit, is known as a writer who discusses oppression of women and the historical-cultural conditions that Chile has lived in over the past thirty years. Her literary style creates an opportunity for writers and artists to express and demonstrate political resistance in an obviously defiant manner. In much of her writing, Eltit examines society after the coup d'état in 1973 and the dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile. She evokes a vivid image of life during the dictatorship, or in the case of her novel, Los vigilantes, under the effects of dictatorial oppression.

The novel, Los vigilantes, is an allegory of life under the dictatorial law inaugurated under the regime of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The narration consists of letters from Margarita, a single mother, who along with her mute son suffers the repression and fear of living in an authoritarian regime. The novel shows gender inequalities, and the forms in which a patriarchal culture molds the values and actions of its citizens.

In my essay, I explore the politics of the novel, Los vigilantes, by Diamela Eltit, specifically vigilance and the way in which it affects the behavior and psychological state of the protagonist. I discuss how the dictatorial state of Los vigilantes creates a political atmosphere where repression and fear determine the life of those that resist the law and the homogeneity of society. The vigilance instated by the dictatorship is reproduced in the citizens, who become agents and accomplices and create suspicion as a form of sociability – the idea of the panoptic society by Michel Foucault. Everyone suspects and watches one another while living in a stratified, unequal, and unjust society. Because Margarita is a mother without her husband, living alone with her son, she is watched by everyone around her: the neighbors, townspeople, and her mother-in-law. Her correspondence with her absent husband reveals the control that he has over her through his words alone. As readers, we never see any of the correspondence from the husband, but know that he controls Margarita by making threats to take away her son, by sending his mother to visit her, and by asking the neighbors to watch her. The father/husband in Los vigilantes, incarnates the power of the dictator, Pinochet.

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