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“Pedro Paramo” by Juan Rulfo is one of the famous Latin American novels. Since its inception in 1955, “Pedro Paramo” has set precedence for writing in Latin America. The setting of the novel is a small town known as Comala. The novel narrates the story of three major characters: Pedro Páramo, Juan Preciado, and Susana San. The central theme from Juan Preciado’s perspective is the search for familial identity and vengeance. As the story commences, Juan Preciado gives a personal account promising the ill mother that he would go back to Comala to meet his dad. Pedro Paramo and Dolores Preciado are the legitimate parents of Juan Preciado. Juan explains that he never intended to fulfill the promise he made to his mother if not for the haunting visions that kept disturbing him. Through Juan’s perspective, the reader is led through a ghost story as he encounters the souls of the dead in Comala and hears their voices. Juan presents an interspersed and fragmented narration of the life story of his father. At this point, Juan was convinced he must be dead too.

Overview of the Novel

It is worth noting that the town of Comala seems split, and the residents are insecure and miserable. The novel presents the names of a man, a woman, and a priest who are deemed to be the members of Comala town. However, there is no further information regarding their life stories. The three persons hosted Juan Preciado and narrated for him stories about the town, its misery, and its disgrace. Particular, they told Juan the whereabouts of Pedro Paramo, his legitimate father. Pedro is described as a man of ill motives. Juan learns that the woman hosting was not human but a ghost. He, therefore, packs and seeks another residence. However, he later learnt that all the residents of Comala town are ghosts. During the time of Pedro, the town of Comala is described as lively and robust which contradicts the current ghostly condition that exists. At this point, strange things begin to happen. The author repeatedly twists the tenses from past to present. The reader then looses the essence of time in the novel because of the jumpy tenses. In the middle of the novel, Juan dies. From these points on, the story is centralized in the era of Pedro.

Through his journey to Comala town, Juan comes to understand the actual character of his father, Pedro Paramo. He draws testimonies from many sources all of which confirm the ill conducts of Pedro Paramo. He is described as a man who owned vast land in Comala town, a womanizer, an oppressor, and harsh representative. No one could oppose Pedro who was like a tycoon. Anyone who could not comply with strategic management would be brought before for discipline. Pedro was also a womanizer. Juan discovered that Pedro had children all over the town with different women.  As a matter of fact, it is one of his concubines that brought down his tyrannical rule.

Character Analysis

Ruflo presents three main characters in the story and these are Juan Preciado, Susan San Juan, and Pedro Paramo. Juan takes the first half of the novel narrating the story until he dies. Dorotea takes up the second part of narrations and presents to the reader the life story of Pedro Paramo before he died and after his and Juan‘s death.

Pedro Paramo is one of the main characters in the novel. He is presented as a tycoon in Comala. He owned a vast piece of land. He is presented as protagonist as well as antagonist. He is able to use his decisive trait for his own benefit and to the disadvantage of his community. He seems obsessed by his love for Susan Juan to an extent that nothing matters to him. The fact that Pedro had many children all over the town clearly shows that he has control over the affairs of the town. However, it is saddening that he leaves the town to collapse in pursuit of a woman. Pedro’s life and conduct is very crucial for the well-being of Comala town.

Juan Preciado is the chief narrator in the first half of the story. He tells the reader the story from the onset until the moment he met his death. He comes to Comala to fulfill a promise he made to his mother at her deathbed. On his arrival in the town, he finds it deserted being the home for ghosts. He eventually dies of ghostly fright. He ended sharing a grave with Dorotea who holds conversation with him.

Susana San Juan is the first love of Pedro Paramo. However, she displays passionate love for him first that she ends up insane and finally dies. Her death leaves Pedro with intense grief that also consumed his life. She is symbolically used to represent water and rain.

Other minor characters include Miguel Paramo, who is a son to Pedro. He seemed to have followed the character of Pedro. He is presented as a rude rapist. He closely contrasted with Juan whose is the exact opposite. Generally, the story is marked with a lot of ambiguities since no one knows who is dead and who is alive. Critics of this novel highlight that it represents magical realism. The title of the novel draws attention to the character Pedro Paramo.

Themes in the Book

Theme of Love and Romance

Love and romantic relationship are explicitly elaborated in this book. Paramo Pedro was greatly in love with Susana. Their love is exhibited right from their youth. The two play together during their childhood days. They seem to enjoy the company of one another. This level of love later sneaks to illusion Pedro had later in life. Even though he was separated from Susana for a long time, he is still in love with her and longs for a restoration of their affair. Pedro later marries Dolores out of an arrangement of debt cancellation. Pedro was, however, drunk that he did not make love to his new wife on the wedding night.

Romance is also exhibited in the life of Miguel. He is so much in love with his girlfriend who stays at Contla. He, however, dies on his way to meet this lady. Dorotea confesses to the priest about the lifestyle of Miguel that was full of romance, but he appeared to betray many ladies. Dorotea reveals that she brought many ladies to Miguel. This is another illustration of this theme.

Theme of Immorality and Violence

Immorality and violence is yet another theme which is evident in this book. The death of Lucas Paramo from a bullet wound is an expression of violence in the society. Why would a person desire to kill the groom on his wedding day? Such questions only end into a conclusion that the society is very immoral and violent. Alcoholism and drinking also appear in this book. These are other illustrations of immorality and violence. Pedro is so drunk on his wedding night that he fails to fulfill his conjugal responsibilities to his newly wedded wife. The killing of Aldrete is another illustration of violence. Aldrete was hanged in a house as a result of a quarrel between him and Paramo. His killing is concealed when the body remains are hidden in a closed house. Eduviges Dyada also commits suicide in an illustration of immorality and violence. Even though she was a good woman, her reasons for committing suicide are not clear.

Theme of Death

Juan Rulfo’s book also carries a heavy presence of death. Many characters in this book appear to die in one way or another. Some die out of natural phenomena while others are tragically killed. The book opens with the death of Pedro’s grandfather. His death brings sadness and grief to the family. They gather to pray for his soul. Such prayers are to help the dead go to heaven and not hell. Susana’s mother later dies. The death of Senora brings great sorrow to Susana. She pays money for a mass which does not take place. Lucas Paramo also dies from a bullet that was directed to the bridegroom. Several people also die at this wedding after some confrontations ensued. Florencio as well dies at a time when he was still needed in the society. Susana is one person whose life is surrounded with death.

The theme of death is further exhibited in the death of Miguel. He dies making his way to Contla to visit his girlfriend. He decides to take a short cut which costs him his life. It appears like his death had been predicted earlier. He always rode on his horse in great speed, and he was warned that the horse would one day kill him. The deaths of Eduviges Dyada and Aldrete are further emphasis of the theme of death. This society must have hurt its people. Many people’s hopes were dead. This could be the reason for the deaths exhibited in the book. 

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