Foreshadowing In "Three Dirges"
A sense of ominous foreboding permeates the woeful passage from "Three Dirges." The conflict is immediately apparant: "Don Lazaro, you've got five boys in Comitan teaching the campesinos how to read. That's subversive. That's communist. So tonight, you have to kill them." Don Lazaro, the mayor of the war torn village, San Martin Comitan, seems to have no choice but to carry out this heartless command. His response is indicative of a desperate man searching for answers, yet already resigned to carrying out the task at hand. "What can I say? --you tell me!" cries an anguished Don Lazaro to the villagers. Is he pleading for their understanding, or asking for a miraculous solution that would alter the path that lay before him? It is this uncertainty that, when coupled with melancholy foreshadowing, leaves the reader at a suspenseful crossroad; suspecting that events are transpiring, but doubtful as to the outcome.
The element of foreshadowing is exemplified early in the passage with the visual description of the Indian skyrocket. Was the skyrocket, with its orange and yellow star-burst and streaking gray tail, a warning? Perhaps the skyrocket was a portend of a horrendous attrocity about to occur. Certainly, the resounding echo and brilliance of the skyrocket would alert the villagers to impending danger. In a land already rocked by its internal strife, such a sight in the still darkened sky would send shockwaves of fear and panic throughout the small community. The reader, too, must ponder the implication of this apparant signal of peril.
If the skyrocket failed to capture the attention of everyone in the village, the mission bells foreshadowed an unknown evil that was threatening the villlage. Was the entire population of San Martin Comitan under attack? The mission bells were easily recognizable to parishoners; moreover they were a welcome tolling beckonning the faithful to worship. But this tolling of the chimes was indisputably out of the ordinary. Mission bells did not chime before sunrise! This unusual timing could only bring fear and sadness.
The feeling of fear and sadness is further portrayed by the crying of the village women, ". . . a woman's anguish pierced the still, early morning, followed by yet a duet of wails, and then a full chorus of cries." Clearly, these women intuitively or otherwise , know of wrenching torment awaiting the village. The somber mood continues with the procession of religious officials making their way to the same destination as the wailing women. In contrast, however, the religious principales have assumed a formation of some sort; "marching in six files, two abreast," ceremoniously fulfilling their obligation as if all hope had already eroded.
That hope further dissipated when the young men, now being led each by an older man, made their way to the cemetery. The cemetery was an eery prediction of what was surely now...