Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Because We Are So Poor” was first published in 1953 as part of Juan Rulfo’s collection El llano en llamas. On one interpretation, the central focus of the story is the river and the damage it does to the impoverished lives of the narrator’s Mexican village. It has ruined the harvest, carried off a large village tree, and rushed into a woman’s house and threatened to drown her chickens, which must be of great importance to her.

The plain on which these people scratch out a living is arid. Through the Mexican Revolution’s land distribution plan, the characters have received title to land on this plain, but it requires a pickax to plant even a seed. Ironically in this desert world, when rain does come, it comes as an unwelcome destructive force, engorging the river to flood levels.

In Rulfo’s world, nature is never benign. It presents an overwhelming force against which puny human powers struggle and lose. The inevitability of this defeat constitutes the fatalism that threads its way through Rulfo’s fiction, particularly in this story, in which nature’s power literally engulfs humanity. For example, Rulfo describes Tambora’s flooded house as “already part of the river.” More ominously, the river has figuratively entered Tacha, whose crying resembles its roar. Her tears are the waters of the river already drowning the hope of her young life, as it drowned the cow that was to save her.

From another perspective, the story’s focus is the fate of Tacha. Although her future remains uncertain, all signs point to her...

(The entire section is 646 words.)