JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 301
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"orphaned history," their story seemingly far from the conflict's frontlines.
An overlooked group-the orphaned, surviving children of the republi-
cans-are imagined and given a voice and history. One of the few writers
on the period to acknowledge the child survivors of the war, Paloma
Aguilar notes how the war becomes the definitive moment for the
children who lived through it:
The generation which lives through war and a postwar period during
childhood, forms the deepest impression of this experience and finds
it difficult to conceive anything different, given that the first experi-
ence known consists of the ruins and all the psychological scars of
The film's children do not offer a "mainstream" perspective on a war that,
due to the victory of the nationalists and to collective amnesia and
avoidance, does not get remembered or told. If ghosts return from the dead
in order to demand a narrative for something that hasn't been adequately
symbolized, then Santi, in his own "limbo water," represents aspects of
a dispossessed past returning-the repressed contagion of violence that
infiltrates and infects everyone, even the most isolated, vulnerable group
of children during the war (and therefore, by implication, the entire
nation).12 Carlos, the filtering consciousness, is a child prepared to
"listen" to this experience, as he does to Santi, and insert it into the
However marginalized they are made to appear, "nobody's chil-
dren"-the dispossessed ofhistory-comment on the civil war in impor-
tant ways that dominant discourses of the left or right have not found easy
to acknowledge. Theirs is "orphaned" discourse. As del Toro films it, the
failure of the civil war cannot be explained in terms of the discursive
binarisms that structure so many of the aesthetic and historical responses
to the era-ones that rhetorically stage the conflict simplistically as one
between democracy versus fascism, communism versus Catholicism,
innovation versus tradition, civilization versus chaos.13 Most obviously,
the viewer recognizes this when he or she notes how certain fascist
impulses, religious conservatism, and chaos are constitutive aspects of
those who identify themselves as republicans. Del Toro seeks a filmic
vocabulary to explore the factionalism, discord, and hatred that
splinters the republican community, down to its youngest members,
discovering within the world of the orphanage the "fascist" impulses
residing in the nation at large. He suggests that this disavowed
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/47/: accessed October 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .