Juan Rulfo's short stories in 'El Llano de Llamas' provide vivid illustrations of the complexity of the individual. Although Rulfo often utilizes extremes - harsh environments, difficult circumstances, and out of the ordinary characters - it is through the combination of these elements that he is able to write protagonists with the potential to show their humanity to the reader…
Rulfo attained most of his acclaim through his 1955 publication of Pedro Pramo. Yet many literary critics have thought that the genius of Rulfo's works are within his short stories, where "the elaboration of a single event of the introspection of a single character allows him to illuminate the meaning, often the utter despair, of a man's life" (Schade, p.ix). Rulfo utilizes secondary characters, often family members, to cause reactions from the protagonists. By this, we access the protagonists' humanity.
In 'Macario,' character is accessed through use of time and place: the story and its events are chaotic. Macario is an individual, but impossible to understand for his complexity. His ideas and perceptions are contrasted with their opposites, all two thousand words of this piece's prose run in one single paragraph. It's difficult for the reader to orientate themselves within the text. More importantly, it is impossible to distinguish Macario's perception of the outside world, the frogs, the toads, Grandmother, Felipa, food, starvation, etc.
There is no second character's point of view given within 'Macario' to counter the ideas or impressions stated. There's no one else's dialogue. Readers must take the information and the character as he is and interpret Macario's life, time and place as he gives it. I believe this is the basis for Gyurko (1972) to state that "Character is stripped external appearance and splintered into existential shards; plot is inconsequential or nonexistent; action decelerates into stasis. Narrative continuity is fragmented into bits of dialogue and truncated memory" (p.451).
Macario's inner dialogue is difficult to follow. The sequences of his thoughts have a semblance of sequence or order, but in final interpretation, they are weird. Rulfo uses this stylistically. Macario's first sequence of inner dialogue opens the first paragraph of the first page of the first short story in 'El llano de llamas.' While Macario is musing over the frogs that he is waiting for, the readers are introduced to the idea of an individual's complexity and peculiarity:
Las ranas son verdes de todo a todo, menos en la panza. Los sapos son negros. Tambin los ojos de mi madrina son negros. Las ranas son buenas para hacer de comer con ellas. Los sapos no se comen; pero yo me los he comido tambin, aunque no se coman, y saben igual que las ranas. Felipa es la que dice que es malo comer sapos. Felipa tiene los ojos verdes como los ojos de los gatos.
Rulfo paints a portrait of a disjointed mind, incomprehensible to others. 'Macario' is then used as an overlay to the short stories that follow. The subsequent short stories have to do with tension between people, and often both viewpoints are easily perceptible, unlike Macario's inner ranting. Rulfo uses secondary characters as a tool to give readers feedback on the protagonists. Rulfo's protagonists are often extraordinary and peculiar individuals struggling to survive in un-ordinary and harsh circumstances, like Natalia in 'Talpa' and Ignacio in 'No oyes ladrar a los perros.' Such characters might be difficult for the reader to relate to or comprehend. For this, Rulfo utilizes secondary characters, usually family, like Natalia's mother and Ignacio's father, to build humanity and provide an ...
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