Prof. Steve Tillis
Collegiate Seminar 123
Of Love and Other Demons, The Escape of Delaura and Sierva Maria
When an individual finds the person who makes them happy, that person they can trust
and will not give up on them regardless of what happens, the individual becomes a whole new
person. That is the case of Sierva Maria; most see her as a possessed, evil young girl who has
gone crazy, while Delaura sees the complete opposite. If we compare Sierva Maria from the girl
she is at the beginning of the novel living in her basement, to the girl she becomes in the
convent, most would be afraid to approach her. They would say she is a demon, but Delaura
considers her a beautiful, amazing individual. He portrays her as an “angel” who deserves to be
free and happy. Therefore he has an urge to save her from the evils of the demons such as the
priest and women in the convent; he knows they will destroy her. Delaura feels the responsibility
of protecting Sierva because he seems to be the only one who sees her true self, her true identity.
He becomes determine to save her, which turned into an obsession that he calls love.
Throughout the story their relationship becomes an escape. For Sierva Maria, it is an
escape of her unwanted life that she is living, the unwanted parents that reject her, and the
unwanted demons that are trying to take over her life. She has learned to trust him to protect and
love her. For Delaura, although he seems to have a stable, satisfied life, he is missing love. He
knows that if he committed himself to Sierva he would risk all the good that is part of his life,
but he is willing to escape from that life, he was ready for a different episode in his life, for love.
Throughout the novel we see Sierva Maria at a young age experiencing a terrible life, a
life that a twelve year old should not be living. But who is to blame for this? She has no love
from her parents and it is only expressed love and a sense of care from the slaves. The rejection
of her parents and the accusation that she has rabies made her vulnerable and made her believe
that she is not capable of becoming a loved individual, or capable of becoming anyone. A
professor tries “to teach her to read and write, she refused because she said she could not
understand the letters” (44); she does not feel as if she is suitable for anything, therefore she
makes up excuses to not learn. “Her mother hated her from the moment she nursed her for the
first and only time and then refused to keep the baby with her for fear she would kill her” (42),
her own mother hates her, which makes her feel miserable, it is as if she has no mother.
Therefore in a way Sierva Maria gives up on a happy life, but that all changes when Delaura
comes along. Delaura gives her hope and an opportunity to actually be happy. When he first
approaches her she is afraid of letting him in her life, because she is an individual who trusts no
one. She feels as if she can only depend on herself and believed Delaura is only trying to make
up lies about her; She sees him as a demon who is trying to control her life like every one else.
But that did not stop Delaura, he does not believe the rumors of the priest and others saying that
she is possessed. “The fundamental task, however, was to establish whether Sierva Maria was in
reality possessed. He did not believe so, but he required the assistance of the Marquis to dispel
any doubt” (110), he is determined to settle this case, he is not going to let go of what he
His urge, his determination of not letting Sierva Maria become destroyed turns into an
obsessive love. It first begins with a passion that he strongly believes. The research that he
devoted himself in finding evidence for his beliefs only strengthens his passion, he is positive
that he could help her, “[I feel] as if I had the wings of the Holy spirit” (84). The rejections of
Sierva Maria when he would visit her, only make him stronger; he is not willing to give up on
her. The attacks that he receives from her, do not mean he has lost the war, but only the first
battle, as he is attacked the first time “he displayed his wounds as if they were battle trophies,
and scoffed at the danger of contracting rabies” (pg. 85). Delaura knows what he wants and he is
going to go after that regardless of the obstacles that come his way. He wants to prove that
Sierva Maria is not possessed. As he continues and struggles to fight to receive Sierva’s
acceptance, his passion begins to turn into an obsessive love towards her, he imagines telling her
“for you was I born, for you do I have life, for you will I die, for you am I now dying” (88). That
love becomes so strong that he is willing to give up his life for her. He wants to escape from his
position as Father Cayetano Delaura and start a new life with Sierva. He is willing to take risks,
because his love is so strong that all he wanted was her.
This obsessive love that he begins to feel is unexpected not only for Sierva, and many
others but also for him. Because he is first hesitant to take the case of Sierva, he does not believe
he is capable of being responsible for her exorcism, and he seems afraid. He tells the bishop, “I
am not an exorcist, father, I do not have the character or the training or the knowledge to claim to
be one. Besides, we know that God has set me on another path” (76). But by him accepting the
responsibility that is where it all began. It starts with a belief that Sierva is not possessed and that
took over his life because he knew he had to do something to prove it. In a way a demon inside
of him began to control his life. He is not possessed but by demon I mean that a new personality
arouse, appeared in him, a new attitude that those who know him become confuse and cannot
understand his actions; “The bishop was disturbed that he had not come to read at supper.
Delaura realized he was floating on a personal cloud where nothing in this world or the next
mattered except the horrific image of Sierva Maria debased by the devil” (118). He has become a
new person and that was part of the first step in escaping from his recent life, he is only focused
on Sierva Maria. When one has high beliefs about a certain situation they do not give up, their
attitude changes to achieve what they want. That is what Delaura does; he wants a change in his
life. He has a new attitude, and now what he needs is Sierva to complete his escape and start a
new life. That is where the relationship leads him to, an escape of his everyday life, an escape of
the usual people around him an escape of being alone—Sierva Maria completes him, his life.
Sierva Maria has nothing to lose in escaping, her whole life is a disaster and she only
feels as a bother for everyone around her. The relationship gives her hope and love. The hope
and love she wishes she had for the twelve years of her life. Because during those twelve years
all she hears are complains about her as she done nothing, accusations while there is nothing
wrong with her, but no sense of care, no love. She never hears an “I love you” or “what do you
want to do? Where do you want to go? What makes you happy”? It was never about her. She is a
child that experiences more than one child should have ever experienced in twelve years.
She is not possessed, does not have rabies but since most people believe she does, she
goes along with it. Why? Because she has nothing to lose, her life is already a wreck, she could
trust no one and has no hope. But instead of helping her situation she gets herself into a deeper
hole, meaning she only makes her life worse. Her actions make people believe they are correct in
accusing her of being possessed and having rabies. “She shoved away the warders, who
attempted to subdue her, climber onto the table, and ran from one end to the other in rampage of
destruction, shrieking as if truly possessed” (68). The demons around her such as the priest, her
father, and Josefa Miranda, the abbess do not help her life, they are only trying to find ways to
supposedly take out the demon inside of her, but the reality is that they themselves are only
hurting her. They are the demons who are affecting her life. And unfortunately most of those
demons like her father are individuals that have the responsibility to be there for her, to save her
from her situation.
But they are not the only ones to blame; she can also be considered a demon that finishes
her own life. The demon of denial, of failure, of helpless is taking control over her life and
instead of fighting the rumors she gives in. Her attitude has to do a lot with where she ends up at
the end of the story; she is not completely blamed, but she definitely could have prevented the
ending of her life if she could have acted with a positive attitude. Life is how one makes it, we
have control of most of the situations that happen in our life, and our reaction towards those
situations is what determines what happens next. Therefore Sierva could have prevented her
situation at an extent that she would not have been sent to the convent. Her life could have been
better, she could have enjoyed her childhood and most of the situations she experienced
throughout life could have been different, even to the extent that Delaura would never have
entered her life. But her life ended how it did mostly because of her decisions.
Therefore, throughout her twelve years Sierva Maria wants the opportunity to enjoy her
childhood, but that is almost impossible when obstacles continue to come her way, and every one
is against her. Delaura turns her world upside down. He becomes the only one who actually
listens to her, shows her he cares, and shows her love. Sierva Maria learns to rely on him to make
her feel worth of being an individual, to make her feel happy. This reliance she has on him turns
into love, into the love that she has never received or shown towards another individual. He is
the only individual she sees with joy, the one she treats with no violence and actually has a
conversation with him. When she is with him, that is her escape of her miserable life, he makes
her feel as an individual and not a demon. She knows that with him she will have a joyful future
ahead. “She kept the cell clean and neat for the moment he arrived with all the naturalness of a
husband returning home. Cayetano taught her to read and write and initiated her into the cults of
poetry and devotion to the Holy Spirit, anticipating the happy day when they would be free and
married” (128). Love has taken over her life because she is able to express herself without fear
and is shown by Delaura that she is important in his life.
Love has taken over the life of both Delaura and Sierva, their relationship is strengthened
thorough their courage of being capable of escaping from their old lives and begin a new episode
together. The relationship is an escape, a route to happiness and for a better future. But that route
of happiness does not last for a long time, it ends soon as they become separated as if love was
another demon. A demon that only tricked them into happiness but at the end it ended with
sadness. It seems as if Sierva is not meant to be happy, various demons always attack her and
prevent her from enjoying life. The fact is that there are always going to be individuals and other
“demons” that will want to prevent another individual from being happy, it is part of life, part of
some individuals nature. But one has to decide how they are going to react to a certain situation.
The demons can be blamed for causing evil but it depends on the individual how that is going to
end, affect their lives. One cannot always get what they want but life is too short to not enjoy it.
Sierva Maria and Delaura’s relationship portray an escape of their original lives to seek
happiness, to make the best of life, but are not able to prevent the demons from taking over their
Her attitude is critical because if her reaction would have been a positive reaction then
her situation would improve. People would (add the rabies thing:
Demon: believe that she has rabies. If she did not have rabies what were the causes/significance for her
attitude to change after she was bitten?
of love and demons
Because the relationship that grows within one another is what initiates the escape.
(Did she get herself into a deeper trouble, into a deeper hole?)
…her silences, which could last for months, her explosions of irrational violence, the astuteness
with which she outwitted her mother when the girl put the same bell that had been hung around
her wrist on the cats. The greatest obstacle to knowing her was her habit of lying for pleasure”
You haven;t yet said what he's escaping FROM, or how this love is associated with his escaping. You
might also explain whether this escape in consciously intended, or if it is a result of some deeper sense of
which he is himself unaware.
The relationship between both of these characters is an escape, a route to happiness and for a
better future. Delaura believes that Sierva is not possessed therefore becomes determined to save
her, and his determination turns to love. Sierva relied on him to protect her, she seemed to be a
different person when she was with him, and she felt safe and was not afraid to show her true
self. At the end their love is not meant to be, she is left alone because the demon of love has
taken over her spirit and it becomes too strong that the other demons defeat her happiness. Some
of the other demons being the priest, and those who believe that she is possessed; by doing the
exorcism they only make her feel worse and destroy the relationship that Sierva Maria and
This relationship was a strength, throughout the story it seems as Sierva was not really close to
anyone besiedes the women who took care of her
Demon: believe that she has rabies. If she did not have rabies what were the causes/significance for her
attitude to change after she was bitten?
What everyone was saying, she felt an urge to let them be correct. She had nothing else to do,
since her life was already a wreck.
The thesis as it currently stands seems pretty solid to me, though its writing is somewhat less steady than
the usual writing of your reading logs. I think it can be cleaned up and tightened.
The idea that the relationship is "an escape" for the characters is interesting, but not properly developed
in the thesis. An escape from what? Sierva certainly has a lot to escape from -- primarily her dreadful
family. But from what is Delaura trying to escape? Doesn't he seem quite satisfied when we first meet
him? Somewhere in the thesis you should give some hint of what each is trying to escape from.
In the body of the paper, there will be some interesting questions for you to address. Why, for example,
does Delaura's determination to help Sierva turn into an almost obsessive love? Is there something in his
character that might explain this, or should we simply believe that he has been possessed, as it were, by
the demon of death?
Similarly, why does Sierva's reliance on him turn into love? Also, does she really "show her true self" to
Delaura? My recollection (which might be wrong) is that she is still lying to him, at least on some subjects,
right up to the end.
Finally, should we blame the various demons for the catastrophe of these characters, or are they
themselves at least partially to blame? This is a real question, and an interesting one that we certainly
could have addressed in class. Let me put it another way: should their own personal characteristics be
counted among the demons that ruin them? It would be interesting to see what you have to say about
(fix and add this) I think the individuals character, attitude and action has to do a lot with the
incidents that occurred in the novel. Because I believe that ones attitude of what happens to do
them depends of how the situation ends up. For example Sierva Maria was never possessed but
she was portrayed as that because she let others believe that through her actions. She herself, can
be consider a demon because instead of trying to make the situation better by being her self, she
would lie to everyone and her behavior towards others only made things worsed. (add quote
where she bites individuals)
instead of acting as herself