38 pages 1 hour read

Manuel Puig

Kiss of the Spider Woman

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1976

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Summary and Study Guide


In Manuel Puig’s novel Kiss of the Spider Woman, Luis Alberto Molina, a hairdresser, and Valentin Arregui Paz, a Marxist revolutionary, are roommates in a Buenos Aires prison from September to October of 1975. Without the use of a narrative voice, Puig uses dialogue, prison reports, and stream-of-consciousness to tell the story. The majority of the novel is written in dialogue.

Molina, serving eight years for the “corruption of minors” is animated and sociable, unlike Valentin, a detainee, who is more reserved and spends his free time studying philosophy and preparing to rejoin his comrades when he is released. It is clear, from the beginning, that Molina and Valentin have contrasting views and disagree on many things.

To pass the time and to fall asleep, Molina tells detailed and often embellished movie plots to Valentin as they lie side-by-side. The first movie is about a girl whose fear of becoming a panther woman comes true when she becomes suspicious of her husband having an affair with his assistant. Valentin listens, interjecting to make comments, ask questions, and make critical remarks, which irritates Molina.

Still, Molina continues to share movie plots that he remembers, starting with the one about a girl whose fears come true when she becomes a panther woman when she believes her husband is having an affair. Then he shares a Nazi propaganda plot, which Molina loves for its romance. He then tells one about a South American son who wishes to be involved with a political movement, which relates to Valentin. Valentin begins to open up to Molina about his involvement in the movement, but also about his feelings for Marta, an ex-girlfriend.

Molina, it turns out, is a spy, on behalf of the warden, and is supposed to soften Valentin so he reveals secrets of Valentin’s political group’s movements. Puig weaves in stream-of-consciousness, which is used to depict Valentin’s dreams, as well as his and Molina’s internal thoughts, revealing their motivations. Though initially they seem to dislike each other, Molina and Valentin slowly become friends, opening up to one another, and, eventually, sharing physical intimacy. Molina shares a zombie movie at Valentin’s request for something supernatural. The movie plots parallel the characters’ situations, with each one depicting a strained relationship and a portrayal of manipulation.

Molina lies to the warden, saying he hasn’t learned anything in regard to Valentin’s political group, because his relationship with Valentin is growing stronger. Molina wants to be released and return to his mother but also doesn’t want to leave Valentin.

When Molina is released on parole, the warden has him followed constantly. Molina agrees to pass on a message for Valentin to the political group but dies in the process. In the end, Valentin is tortured and interrogated. He is given morphine and drifts into a dreamlike state where he reconnects with his old girlfriend, Marta. 

Related Titles

By Manuel Puig

Plot Summary


Betrayed by Rita Hayworth

Manuel Puig

Betrayed by Rita Hayworth

Manuel Puig