Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

To gain access to the primary theme of The Futile Life of Pito Perez, one need only consider the opening and closing scenes. The narrator meets Pito originally in a bell tower: “The dark silhouette of a man was plainly outlined in the luminous arch of the bell tower. It was Pito Perez, intensely absorbed in his contemplation of the surrounding countryside.” From this opening image of a man withdrawn temporarily from society and associated with the center of the dissemination of important events, the bell tower, the reader witnesses the downward spiral of a well-intentioned, idealistic man—a bird for whom no thermals exist—to his death. “The early risers . . . found the body on a pile of rubbish. Its hair was completely disheveled and caked with mud. Its mouth had contracted into a convulsive grin of bitterness. Its wide-open eyes looked at the heavens with a challenging haughtiness.”

Romero’s resolutely cynical view of Mexico’s infrastructure precludes any characterization based on values of sincerity, loyalty, trust, forgiveness, brotherhood, or love. The inference that madness and death are the principled individual’s response to the hypocritical, deceitful world is borne out in Pito’s last will and testament, which is a resounding denouncement of all service institutions. The notes which ring from the bell tower fill the ears with dissonance and disillusionment.

Romero chose the picaresque as the form most suited to his purpose, having detected the baroque premise which underlies the genre—that the greatest sin of man is to be born. With earlier examples of the form, The Futile Life of Pito Perez shares the general rhythm and movement of the engaño/desengaño (illusion/hope, disillusionment/despair) pattern. Romero’s...

(The entire section is 737 words.)