"The ‘Fickle’ One"?
On his birthday in July of 1954, Pablo Neruda confessed to the University of Chile that "it is worthwhile to have struggled and sung, it is worthwhile to have lived because I have loved" (Neruda 331). In nearly all of his works, Neruda attests to the simplicity, valor, and importance of love, whether for country, "common things," or another human being. Throughout South America, he was known as "un poeta del pueblo," a poet of the people, and his talent for composing such passionate verses propelled him to Nobel Laureate status. In a collection published in 1972, he exemplifies his mastery of language by entwining his own passionate love life with an admiration for nature, producing realistic, yet mystical expressions of devotion. In "The Fickle One," the author creates a paradox confirming that the persona’s sincere affection transcends the physical attraction and lust by which he initially appears imprisoned. Furthermore, Neruda presents an opposition by dividing the poem into parallel halves, demanding that even the receptive reader peruse the poem more than once to discern the genuine meaning of the experience that the text conveys.
Neruda, with much attention to detail and manipulation of language, demonstrates the persona’s inability to control his human, sexual nature, causing the reader to disapprove of him. By stating, "My eyes went away from me," he conjures a persona with eyes that are disconnected from the rest of his body, as though they are a separate entity, acting against the will of the brain, bones, and heart. Seemingly, he desires all the females that pass by him. He gazes longingly at each woman while absorbing all their physical details, corroborating the notion that the only qualities that draw him to random women are tangible attributes. The persona covets a "dark girl" and a "pale blonde," relaying not only an affinity for one type of female, but an equal attraction to all women, from one end of the spectrum to the other. Indeed, Neruda portrays the persona as a very capricious man (Neruda 2, 10).
The Chilean poet further perpetuates a negative view of the persona through the utilization of violent imagery. For example, the "dark girl . . . lashe[s]" at him demonically with her "tail of fire" (2, 6-7). In addition, instead of merely touching the "pale" girl’s breast, the persona "discharg[es]" the heat of his passion, his "lightning bolts of blood," upon her like a round of bullets (10, 15-6). Both of these metaphors represent his sexual fantasies with women other than the one with whom he sustains a real relationship, solidifying the reader’s initial bad impression. Neruda also employs these fierce descriptions when developing the paradox that contrasts the first and second women while simultaneously generating an opposition to the third woman. This functions as an initial sign of the persona’s tenderness. For instance, in the first half of the work, "blood" has a negative connotation while in...