Behind Two Strong Men is an Even Stronger Woman Sigmund Freud said, “A woman should soften but not weaken a man. ” This quote exemplifies the character Casilda from Isabel Allende’s short story “The Judge’s Wife”. Although not seen by all as a main character, Casilda is the strongest and most evolutionary character of the short story. “The Judge’s Wife” is an exceptional tale that follows the progression of characters as they fight against their predetermined destinies and how they are viewed in others’ eyes. Casilda is a catalyst for the evolution of almost every character in the story.
Not only does her character grow in “The Judge’s Wife”, but she is also a medium for the growth of the two other main characters in the story, Judge Hidalgo and Nicolas Vidal. “A man such as he was never meant to be a husband…” (Allende 1226). Judge Hidalgo is the law of the small town that is the setting for “The Judge’s Wife”. He ruled the town with an iron fist, refusing to “apply and common sense in the exercise of his profession…. equally harsh in his condemnation of the theft of a chicken as of a premeditated murder” (Allende 1226).
Then Casilda came along. After their marriage, Judge Hidalgo is transformed. He evolves from a heart-less exemplification of superior authority, into a warm, caring father and husband. Though the townspeople do not see this personality transformation first-hand, there is rumor of his behavior. “Though outwardly he remained the same…The Judge was transformed the minute he crossed the threshold at home: that he flung off his gloomy apparel, rollicked with his children, checked as he sat Casilda on his lap” (Allende 1227).
But even more than rumor, the townspeople notice a change in the Judge’s ruling. He became fairer, even going so far as not convicting a wife of adultery because her husband had been keeping a mistress. Casilda helps him to become a softer, but not weaker, version of himself. She not only softens his judgments, but also helps him to see when his actions are barbaric. During the course of the story, Judge Hidalgo sets a “trap” for Nicolas Vidal by caging Nicolas’s mother, Juana the Forlorn, in the middle of the town “with only a job of water to meet her needs” (Allende 1228).
After three days, the priest and a group of Catholic women go to Casilda to plead for Juana the Forlorn’s life. They feel that she is just a poor old woman who does not deserve this kind of torture simply to try to capture her son. She hears their request and sets forth for the town, taking her children dressed in their Sunday best, with a basket of food and a bottle of fresh water. The soldiers try to keep her away, but once Judge Hidalgo hears his children’s cries, he realizes the error of his ways.
Judge Hidalgo personally comes down and unlocks the cage, freeing Juana the Forlorn. Again, Casilda makes him a softer, but not weaker, man. This softening is not wasted on Judge Hidalgo alone. Casilda also has an immense impact on the character of Nicolas Vidal. Nicolas Vidal is the “villain” of “The Judge’s Wife”. Born to a prostitute whom tried numerous times to achieve a self-abortion during her pregnancy, Nicolas was prophesied at birth to “lose his head over a woman” (Allende 1227).
Juana may not have successfully expelled the growing child from her body, but she feared that the numerous attempts and infallible techniques must have “tempered his soul to the hardness of iron” (Allende 1227). Before he reached his teens, his face carried with it the scars of knife fights with other children. Nicolas became the leader of a band of outlaws by the time he was twenty. The knowledge of his predetermined fate kept Nicolas from getting too close to any women, “hardening his heart and restricting himself to the briefest of encounter whenever the demands of manhood needed satisfying” (Allende 1226).
He guards his heart not only from other women, but his mother as well. Even while she is being tortured in the town square, he remains vigilant in not falling into Judge Hidalgo’s trap. Nicolas “knows” that he will outlast the Judge because Nicolas does not have the opinions of others pressing into his decisions. Upon seeing Casilda for the first time, Nicolas dismisses her as almost ugly, remarking on her fingers that were “obviously unskilled in the art of rousing a man to pleasure” (Allende 1226).
With the war with Judge Hidalgo and his daily bandit lifestyle, Casilda becomes a mere memory in his brain. When Nicolas goes to avenge his mother’s death, blaming Juana the Forlorn’s suicide on Judge Hidalgo for torturing her in the middle of town, he finds Casilda alone and prepared for the worst. She faced him without showing any glimmer of fear, the only person in his life to have ever done so. This disarms Nicolas, allowing him to lower his guard to another person. He had never felt the true passion of being completely open with another person, and even knowing hat the troops were coming with the noose to hang Nicolas, “he gladly accepted this in return for [Casilda’s] prodigious gifts” (Allende 1231). At the end of the story, instead of fleeing for the hills in order to save himself, Nicolas gives in to his destiny of losing himself over a woman and folds Casilda in one last embrace. Casilda softens, but does not weaken, Nicolas into a more caring and full individual who had the opportunity of feeling a true intimacy he would have never felt if it had not been for her.
Casilda not only is a catalyst for the evolution of other characters, but is a catalyst for her own evolution as well. When she is introduced to the story, she is being brought down to be married to Judge Hidalgo. She is first described as an “ethereal slip of a girl in her wedding gown, eyes filled with wonder” and “even if she did survive the heat and the dust that filtered in through every pore to lodge itself in the soul, she would be bound to succumb to the fussy habits of her confirmed bachelor of a husband: (Allende 1226).
But despite all of these wedding day prophecies, she remains as delicate and dainty as the day she arrived, even after three back-to-back pregnancies. She remained the perfect example of what a higher society woman should be, a quiet and waiflike creature that “a moment’s carelessness might mean she disappeared altogether” (Allende 1227). Her first step in evolution comes when she defies Judge Hidalgo and decides to take food and water to Juana the Forlorn. Although she knows that the Judge has restricted access to Juana the Forlorn from everyone, Casilda decides that she has had enough of the torture.
She takes her children, the things she knows Judge Hidalgo cannot stand against, and goes to the town square. She still persisted until they had to hold her back by her arms, causing her children to cry. This brings Judge Hidalgo’s attention back to the present, vanquishing from his mind all thoughts of luring Nicolas Vidal to his capture. Casilda’s evolution continues after the car crash and Judge Hidalgo’s death. She is left alone. This slight, delicate woman is left alone to fight by herself against what she thinks will be a whole band of desperadoes.
Casilda pulls together more strength than any other character in the story and takes her children to hiding, so that she might meet this band alone. She is willing to give herself to God knows how many men, in order to protect not only her own life, but mainly the lives of her children. In finding that it is only Nicolas, come alone as well, she stands up to him, staring him directly in the face and showing no fear. This is a major change from a woman whose eyes had been downcast, as adopted by society.
Casilda becomes a seductress who gives herself to Nicolas as she has never done with another, but “not once during that unforgettable afternoon did she forget that her aim was to win time for her children” (Allende 1231). She feels emotions that she has never felt before: passion, pleasure, intimacy, tenderness. Casilda gives herself completely to Nicolas and is grateful to him for opening the door to the possibility of this evolution, so grateful that when she hears the troops coming she begs him to flee.
He does not, and the story ends with their final embrace. Casilda is the catalyst for the evolution of every character in the story. Her delicacy and ethereal qualities soften the heart of the austere Judge Hidalgo. Casilda’s strength and courage soften the heart of Nicolas Vidal. The love of her children strengthens her spirit, drive, and courage. “The Judge’s Wife” is a story of the fight against destiny, but also the growth of characters because of the growth of Casilda. As Sigmund Freud said, “A woman should soften but not weaken a man. ”