Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The novel is a complex weaving together of themes and meanings and even of literary styles. On one level, it is the love story of Abrán and Lucinda. Related closely to this theme is the conflict between urbanization, with its ethnic diversity and impetus toward continual expansion and flux, and pastoralism, which leads Abrán and Lucinda to see their future in terms of a return to the mountains, to the simplicity and cultural purity of village life, and to the spirituality that is engendered through a closer contact with nature than the city allows.

The novel also presents a critique of New Mexico politics and politicians, and many of its characters are drawn from real life. It presents an especially harsh indictment of Anglo bigotry and of unscrupulous and materialistic politicians. Contrasted with the politicians are the artists, primarily Ben and Cynthia, whose function it is to interpret the people to themselves, to show them who they are and thus to give them the sense of identity and cultural heritage of which the politicians constantly threaten to rob them. It is in this light that Anaya’s use of Magical Realism can best be understood. He introduces la Llorona, the wailing woman of Mexican folklore, the trickster figure of Coyote from Indian mythology, two “fictional” characters—Juan and Al—from Ben’s poem, and a figment of Ben’s imagination, doña Loneliness, who suddenly becomes a flesh-and-blood whore dressed in red. These...

(The entire section is 426 words.)