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Literature / Pedro Páramo

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"Illusion? That is expensive. To me living costed much more than it was due" —as said by a dead woman.

Pedro Páramo is a 1955 novel, a poetic and extremely sad novel by Juan Rulfo. It is ostensibly about the illegitimate son (Juan Preciado) of the title character returning to his father's hometown of Comala as a last request to his mother - to get back what his father owes him. It's considered by some one of the best mexican novels, ever, and is a classic of hispanic literature and even global literature, depending on who you ask.

In reality, the book documents the rise and fall of both Pedro and the Town, shifting constantly from person to person and back and forth in time. Comala is the Ghost Town (in more ways than one) trope taken to its extreme: most of its habitants are ghosts and/or memories unaware of their deaths, and it is notoriously difficult both for Preciado and for the reader to tell between the living and dead. Comala, though dangerous in its own quiet way, is not so much creepy as it is as a melancholic place lingering with the defeat of death and forgetting. This being Magical Realism it still manages to be eccentric and even somewhat funny.

It was adapted into a Mexican film in 1967, starring John Gavin (who, while Amercan, is of Mexican ancestry) in the title role.

This book contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Anachronic Order: AND HOW.
  • Book Ends: The novel begins and ends on Abundio.
  • Broken Bird: Several characters, especially Dolores, the narrator's mother.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Implied between the two naked people Juan runs into as he explores the town. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Byronic Hero: The titular man.
  • The Casanova: Pedro and his son Miguel (the only one he considers legitimate) are both of the monster variety.
  • Dead All Along: Everyone. Including the narrator. Possibly.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Pedro's father, Lucas, is killed in a wedding by an unknown man. So he kills every single person that attended the wedding.
  • Film of the Book: The book has several adaptations
  • Fisher King: Pedro is so bitter about the townsfolk's failure to mourn Susana that he refuses to either use the land productively or give management to someone else, which totally destroys the local economy.
  • Gainax Ending
  • Generation Xerox: Pedro and Miguel Páramo.
  • Ghost Town: Comala may be the ultimate example, both literary and figuratively.
  • Heroic Bastard: Juan Preciado may or may not count, as he was born from Pedro Páramo's only real marriage (even tough it is ambiguously implied he may be Damiana's son) but didn't inherit the last name and was never acknowledged by Pedro. Miguel Páramo is more of an Anti-heroic Bastard and so is Abundio.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Susana.
  • Magical Realism: Considered by many to be the Trope Maker.
  • Meaningful Name: At first it seems so but the truth is much more complicated. Juan Rulfo was known for his habit of wandering cemeteries and using the names in the tombs for his stories. All named characters got their names that way, but he still chose them accordingly: "Páramo" means "wasteland", "Preciado" means "prized, beloved" and much more.
  • The Mexican Revolution: Indirectly affects the plot.
  • Mind Screw
  • Seeker Archetype: Juan Preciado.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Pedro Páramo is killed by Abundio Martínez, one of his many illegitimate sons.
  • Parental Incest: Implied between Susana and her father.
  • Theme Naming: A large amount of characters have biblical names, which is completely accurate for a Mexican village.