The witches in Aunt Maria follow some conventions of witches, but I would not go so far as to call them stereotypes or archetypes of witches. These witches are not overtly witches, and do not identify themselves as witches. Had I not known that the topic of this week’s readings was witches I may not even have labeled them as such. I would have thought they were normal humans who dabble in sorcery.
Their powers and influence is much more subdued. The effects of their powers are ethereal and gently permeate the town. There are no physical manifestations of where their powers come from. Aunt Maria doesn’t have a cauldron in her basement where she brews up potions and concocts spells to keep her influence over the town. It seems the witches’ powers in this novel are more of an extension of social manipulation. It’s masked in their normal speech and action.
The book also shows a hierarchical structure in the town. Aunt Maria’s friends are all her disciples that do her bidding, pleasantly masked in etiquette. The control over the town could also be seen as a warped extension of etiquette. The other notable point is that the men and women still have their roles. The men drive the cars and shoot the guns and push Aunt Maria around in her wheelchair, doing what they are supposed to do, while the women pull the strings. The conventional gender roles are still in place, but the power is all placed with the women.
What this novel seems to say about women and women with power is that women derive their influence through social manipulation. The book heightens this by turning it into a sinister means to achieve the aim of total control in the town. The book opens with this, showing Aunt Maria manipulating and guilting the family through the phone and then in person. The book also points out that all women have this “power.” When the family first arrives Mig picks up on what Aunt Maria is doing and does the same to Chris to have him bring luggage inside.
It creates a stark contrast between the way men and women achieve things. The men are brash, they say what they mean and mean what they say. This is what leads to Chris being turned into a wolf. He can’t hold his tongue and barks at Aunt Maria, saying he intends to compromise her authority. Mig, on the other hand, knows she must be subtle. She writes her feelings down but does not say them. She masks her intentions and lies, which is the only way to defeat Aunt Maria.