Lit Guides

Two Words | Summary and Analysis

Summary of Two Words by Isabel Allende

 Two Words by Isabel Allende is a captivating short story about the “magic of words”. Belisa, the protagonist, sees that words have innate value, and as she travels across the country through towns and cities and villages, she allows others to see that same innate value words hold. Although there is no real magic in the story, it’s written with a fascinating mystic feel to it. The story was published in the collection The Stories of Eva Luna (1989) and translated to English from Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden in (1991).

Summary | Two Words

“Two words” is an emotional story of suffering and fate. Belisa Crepusculario, the protagonist of the story, was never given any name by her parents nor was she baptized. Thus, she named herself using the words “beauty” and “twilight”. She changed her tragic fate and fought her poverty by using the “power of words”. She traveled all across the country to sell words of many kinds from news to stories, to poems, and advice.

Since childhood, Belisa had to endure a lot of hardships. Tormented with hunger and pathetic conditions, all she ever knew was suffering. When she was twelve, there was a drought where she lived and as a consequence, her family died and she had to bury them by herself. She feared that her death was near as well and thus she embarked on a journey to save her life. She left her barren homeland and traveled towards the sea hoping it’ll provide salvation. It wasn’t an easy journey. Many failed. But she pushed forward, no matter what. When she finally reached a place with water, thereby some twist of fate she first encountered words and their magical abilities. She knew there were not a lot of honorable positions for her to work, to escape prostitution and other humiliation she thus chose to sell words. With her last dime, she brought a dictionary and asked a priest to teach her how to read and write.

Her life wasn’t the same after that. She submerged herself in her new profession and people lined up to listen to her speech. She moved from place to place and wherever she went she brought along the news from other parts of the country. She would also give people advice and recite stories without missing a word. She not only entertained but also helped people. She would give secret words to end their sufferings. The person who got these words kept them secret, and in times of difficulty, they helped the person cope with problems. She lived a nomad life, moving around with her tent and her words.

One day she was approached by El Mulato a feared rebel and the right-hand man of their leader, he and his men forcefully carried her away to their leader. They were a rebel group who fought wars and induced terror wherever they went. The leader, called the Colonel demanded to see her because he required her services. He was the most feared man in the land but when she saw the Colonel, she strangely felt sympathy for him and wanted to comfort him. The Colonel explained that the reason she was brought there was that he wanted her to write a compelling campaign speech, he was planning to run for president. The Colonel was tired of people being afraid of him and wanted to be respected and loved by everyone. Belisa agreed and wrote a speech for him and in addition, she gave the Colonel two secret words even though he didn’t ask for them. While Belisa is leaving El Mulato tries to touch but he is met with “an avalanche of words he had never heard before” and his desire for her stops there. He becomes afraid of her words.

After a while the Colonel used Belisa’s speech to win the hearts of the citizens, it was a very persuasive and emotional speech. He inspired people with his poetic delivery. The people believed that the Colonel was capable of leading the country towards a bright future. However, soon the Colonel became very restless because of the two words Belisa had given him. He repeated them all the time and was tormented by the effect they had on him. El Mulato noticed his leader’s distress and tracked down Belisa. He accused her of witchcraft and demanded that she must take back her words and end his leader’s suffering. Belisa looked at the Colonel and when their eyes met she approached him and held his hand. The colonel’s men then knew that the Colonel will now never be able to break free from that magic. We never learn what those two words were but it is widely believed that the two words are “Te amo,” Spanish for “I love you.”


Two Words | Analysis

The short story “Two words” uses magic realism to tell a touching story about a struggling poor girl, Belisa Crepusculario. The vivid descriptions and images of suffering at the beginning of the story convey the helplessness of Belisa. The story is very engaging as most of its elements are mysterious; it sparks curiosity in a reader. Right from the start, we are introduced to the main protagonist in a cryptic manner. From the first sentence, Allende is showing her audience the power of words. Belisa gave herself her name, meaning she created her own identity and in some ways her destiny as well. She sold words that brought wonder, happiness, and information to people, and in turn, she became very popular. She has built her reputation in such a way that people were drawn towards her and compelled by her words. It’s as if her words had magic. People paid her in exchange for her powerful words which often told about each other’s doings, about distant relatives, about what was happening in the civil war. People also used her words to write love letters and gain advice. Her prices were not very high, for five centavos “she delivered verses from memory, for seven she improved the quality of dreams, for nine she wrote love letters, for twelve she invented insults for irreconcilable enemies,” again her mystical powers are emphasized. She can help people improve their dreams meaning her words are powerful enough to even get a stronghold of a person’s subconscious. In reality of course such things often don’t make sense but magical realism doesn’t always follow logic. Even though there is never any real magic used by Belisa, Allende used this literary technique to covey the “magic” words have, they have a certain power that can get hold of people and influence the way they feel. We often see it in real life, when people are affected by songs, movies, and books.

“Each person received his or her word, with the assurance that no one else would use it that way in this universe or the Beyond,” Belisa gives a unique word to each person who pays 50 centavos. She creates original content for her audience and doesn’t want to “defraud her customers with packaged words” and that’s why she throws away her dictionary. Since people believed whatever she said if she wanted she could make up words or tell lies and create fake sensations or controversies but she doesn’t. She remains original and uses honesty, to be direct with people. We never learn how she manages to find so many words or how she convinces people so easily and that gives her a magical aura. She might have learned words from a priest but nobody taught her how to control words the way she did. The way she manipulated words and people’s minds are all her original art.

She is an excellent speaker and she recites stories without missing a word that is why people trust her. Her straightforward and sincere demeanor makes her a strong character. She is even capable of creating political and legal arguments. She uses her talents to share the magic of her words with people and bring some happiness into their lives during the turbulent time of the Civil War.

The essence of the story is the power of words. Ironically, Allende creates her magical impression on the readers by not revealing words. The words Belisa tells people or the two secret words she told the colonel, we never learn about them. This creates a magical mystery that stirs the imagination of the audience. Even after the story ends readers wonder what those “two words” could be and this way the story lingers on the reader’s mind for a longer time. The magical secret words given to the Colonel are so potent that his men want to “undo the witchcraft of those accursed words,” but the mysterious words whispered to him had taken hold of his mind. It is often believed that those two words could be “Te amo” meaning “I love you” in Spanish and that’s why they influenced the Colonel so deeply. However, we don’t actually know if this theory is correct. 

The vague ending creates opportunities for multiple possibilities. If we knew what those words were there would be nothing holding our attention. This mystery intrigues our curiosity and activates our imagination. Allende keeps the story’s stronghold on the reader’s mind similarly to how Belisa’s words did on the Colonel. By not revealing a lot of information Allende manages to imply that words are powerful. Some words catch the attention of the readers and get a hold of their.


Two Words | About the Author

Born in 1942 Isabel Allende is a Chilean-American writer. She is well known to use magical realism in her famous works. She’s considered one of the most popular Spanish writers of all time and she has many awards such as; Chile’s National Literature Prize in 2010 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker