Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Cutter is a scathing critique of the Communist government in Cuba. The events in the novel take place after Fidel Castro’s revolution. The novel takes a vehemently anti-Communist position, with the repressiveness and evil of Communism as a recurrent theme. Other themes surround the dominant political one. The novel concerns the desire for personal freedom and independence, but it is also about the loss of innocence and of the belief that if one does the right thing, good will necessarily be the end result.

Julian moves from an attitude of hopeful skepticism to despair and rebellion, and he comes to understand, by the end of the novel, the value of freedom. Despite his ambivalence about his parents’ abandonment of him, it seems clear that Julian and his parents will not only meet again, but they will also reunite as family.

The struggle between the forces of good and evil is clear throughout the novel. Julian, his grandmother, and his friends are representations of good, as are the opponents of Castro’s regime. The democratic society of the United States, which Julian strives to join, stands in stark contrast to the repressive regime of Cuba, which he seeks to escape. Blancarosa and members of the Communist Party are the forces of evil. They are unredeemable, uniformly corrupt, and cruel.

The themes of escape and exile take curious twists. Escape becomes a necessity, and exile becomes a relief. Julian feels no ambivalence about leaving his native soil. Once in the United States, he has no fond memories of Cuba and no longing to return. He associates that “home” with pain and misery. The plot of the novel is rather simple, and its messages are clear: Communism is bad, escape from it is essential, and freedom is worth any price.