The Roles Of Cultural Belief Systems In Respects To Theme In Pedro Páramo

1398 words - 6 pages

Pedro Paramo is a novel that cannot be fully understood without consideration of its rich cultural background. It is this Mexican background, which informs so much of the novel, providing the main conflict. The narrator of the tale remarks “some villages have the smell of misfortune” while describing the locale of Pedro Parámo, the small Mexican town of Comala where the story plays out on many levels (83). On the surface level, this story is merely about a tyranical man who ruins his hometown of Comala. But in reality he does much more than that, his presence detroys the town completely, driving everyone out and converting the town to a type of purgatory. This deeper harm that he causes, by damning the rest of his townsmen is the evil that provides the novel with most of its meaning. Understanding the unique religious background of Mexico, a predominately Catholic country with a tendency for superstition, provides a window by which one can understand the ruin that Comala descends into in Pedro Páramo.
The novel is written in the style of magical realism. This leaves the reader to gradually realize the fantastical nature of the narrative and then interpret it. At first casual remarks made by the townspeople like “‘It doesn’t just look like no one lives here. No one does live here’” and “‘you may find someone who’s still among the living” seem to be exaggerations (7, 9). However, as Juan Preciado, the main character himself, begins to experience these occurrences like when he “saw a woman wrapped in her rebozo; she disappeared as if she had never existed” and when “I lifted my hand to knock, but there was nothing there. My hand met only empty space, as if the wind had blown open the door” the reader begins to understand that he has come to a town inhabited by spirits (8, 9). This concept of a literal ghost town seems very strange to an American reader, but in its Mexican context, a country where people are very affected by superstition and are apt to believe in the existence of spirits, the idea seems more common, and can therefore be considered for its metaphorical implications also.
“‘I would walk into town to see what the uproar was about, and this is what I would see: just what we’re seing now. Nothing. No one. The streets as empty as they are now” (41). The streets are always empty in Comala. It has been left completely to ruin and is now inhabited only by the spirits of those who once lived here. But even spirits must have a reason for staying and not going on to heaven? In following with the Catholic faith, the people of Comala must wait in purgatory, the “‘Refuge of Sinners’” until they have repaid the sins they have committed (16). The town is a hotbed of sinning, the very “image of damnation”, it is said “‘That town sits on the coals of the earth, at the very mouth of hell. They say that when people from there die and go to hell, they come back for a blanket’” (52, 6). The instances in which people are actually able to get out are few...

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