Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A number of themes common to several of Julio Cortázar’s stories are found in “Blow-Up.” One of these is the creation of a fictionalized reality that becomes accepted as truth within the story. Michel views an isolated scene about which he has little information. He nevertheless manufactures a complex reality surrounding that scene, a fictionalized reality complete with details concerning the boy writing to his aunt in Avignon, the manner in which the young man folds his pornographic magazines, the color of the comforter on the bed in the blond’s apartment, and several others. Michel establishes his own version of reality. As even he says about himself, “Michel is guilty of making literature, of indulging in fabricated unrealities.”

The story also deals with Cortázar’s interest in the prospect of multiple and parallel realities (either true or fictionalized). The movement of the figures in the photo contributes to the treatment of this concept in that it demonstrates a reality independent of the “main” one in which Michel and his camera are first involved. Of equal importance, however, is the duality in Michel’s interpretation of the scene unfolding before him. For example, he imagines both success and failure for the seductress, thus establishing at least two separate realities, fictionalized though they both may be. By suggesting more than one possibility, more than one “truth,” Cortázar, as he does in several of his works, demonstrates that “true” reality is hardly ever as simple to establish as one might logically think.

Another thematic concern of Cortázar’s found in this story is the individual human being’s need to tell what he knows, that to which he is privy, in an effort to cleanse himself, to rid himself of the psychological burden of his solitary knowledge. This is demonstrated in the first two pages of the story as Michel speaks of the need to tell his story, to get it out, and in doing so exorcise his soul of what he has witnessed. As he states, “Always tell it, always get rid of that tickle in the stomach that bothers you.”