Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
As might be expected in a novel based on the creation of deliberate fictional artifice, the themes and meanings of A Change of Skin are elaborately stylized and, like the novel’s characters, its themes frequently split into a number of complementary doubles. Yet the most consistently developed theme equates the novel’s action with a stylized re-creation of the Quetzalcoatl myth that was at the heart of pre-Columbian Mexican religion and philosophy. In pre-Columbian thought Quetzalcoatl represented the reconciliation of opposites, the union born of opposed dualities. This union was graphically represented in his chief emblem, the Plumed Serpent. In Aztec lore the serpent was associated with matter and the earthly realm while the bird denoted the opposite realm of heaven and the spirit. As God-King of the fabulous city of Tollan, Quetzalcoatl incarnated and reconciled these warring opposites. Quetzalcoatl taught his subjects the secrets of growing maize and the arts of weaving, and of working precious gold and feathers. He taught man the sacred calendar and the rites associated with its observance. He was the giver of all art and culture, and his kingdom in Tollan became idealized in later Aztec thought as a sort of indigenous Eden. Yet Quetzalcoatl was ultimately defeated by his dark double Tezcatlipoca, who caused him to succumb to the temptations of the flesh. Overcome by remorse, the God-King burned himself in sacrificial flames and was reborn as the...
(The entire section is 902 words.)
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