What Themes Does “And of Clay Are We Created” by Isabel Allende Express?

Isabel Allende’s notable 1985 short story “And of Clay Are We Created” is written in the magical realism style and deals with themes of memory, the past and death. The themes are often expressed with the use of plot devices and images surrounding the concept of burial. Although the story is loosely based on a real-life incident in which a young girl was buried in mud surrounded by the ruins of her home and the dead bodies of her family after a volcanic eruption, Allende moves far beyond the simple facts to tell an emotional story evoking feelings of loss and suffering.

The images of being buried alive that come through the simple story in which reporter Rolf Carle tries to save Azucena, the girl who is buried in mud, reflect the way in which Carle has buried his own memories. He has avoided painful memories regarding his own family for 30 years, and only in trying to free Azucena does he manage to confront his own past. Just as Azucena’s dead brothers and sisters, clinging to her legs under the tons of mud, pull her down and keep her from freedom, so Carle’s memories have kept him trapped in fear and in the memory of humiliation. Although he is not able to free Azucena physically and has to watch her sink back into the clay and die, Carle is set free from his fears and memories of the past by his encounter with the young girl.