(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In this work, Fuentes presents an extended character study of Jaime Ceballos, an adolescent attempting to rebel against the hypocritical society in which his family lives. In the long run, he accepts his fate as a bourgeois and conforms to the wishes of his family.

The setting of the novel is Guanajuato, Mexico, a provincial city in which every citizen is “a practiced, talented, certified hypocrite.” Jaime’s family lives in the social mainstream of this city of “pure compromise,” where appearance and conformity govern the actions of all good people. Soon after Jaime’s birth, his father, Rodolfo Ceballos, is relegated to a secondary position in the family household. The house is now run by Jaime’s aunt, Asunción Ceballos de Balcárcel, and her husband, Jorge Balcárcel, who have recently returned from England, where they had sought haven from the perils of the Mexican Revolution. Jaime’s mother, Adelina López de Ceballos, has been banished by Asunción, who considered her brother’s wife socially inferior, unfit to bear the Ceballos name. Also important in Asunción’s decision to remove Adelina is Asunción’s sterile husband’s inability to provide her with a child of her own. With Adelina gone and Rodolfo supplanted as head of the family, Asunción and Jorge see the young boy as “moral raw material.”

Though Jaime is reared to be a dutiful child in the calm and ordered household, he feels lonely and isolated. He finds solace in reading and religion, at one point even wanting to become a priest. When this idea is quickly snuffed out by his uncle, Jaime’s withdrawal into himself is assured. He turns to masturbation. Profoundly dissatisfied with the world that surrounds him, and wishing to commune with Christ, whom he believes will not abandon him, he masturbates at the feet of the bloodstained image of the Savior...

(The entire section is 761 words.)

The Good Conscience Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Duran, Victor Manuel. A Marxist Reading of Fuentes, Vargas Llosa, and Puig. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1994. An interesting study comparing the politics in the writings of these three important Latin American authors. Many of Fuentes’s works are examined in detail.

Helmuth, Chalene. The Postmodern Fuentes. Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1997. A solid overview of Fuentes’s work from a postmodernist point of view. Several individual works are discussed, focusing on the issues of identity, national and narrative control, and reconsiderations of the past.

Ibsen, Kristine. Author, Text, and Reader in the Novels of Carlos Fuentes. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. Although Ibsen does not directly discuss The Good Conscience, she offers valuable insight into the problem of communication, which remains one of the central preoccupations throughout the work of Fuentes. Her analysis focuses on the means of textualization by which Fuentes activates his reader and how this coincides with his notions of the role of literature in society.

Pollard, Scott. “Canonizing Revision: Literary History and the Postmodern Latin American Writer.” College Literature 20 (October, 1993): 133-147. Scott analyzes the impact of Latin American narrative on Western literary history after World War II. Focusing on authors Alejo Carpentier, Carlos Fuentes, and Lezama Lima, Scott discusses narratives of conquest and exploration, international modernism, the fashioning of cultural identity, and the primacy of European culture. Offers valuable insight into several of Fuentes’s works.

Van Delden, Maarten. Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998. Using Fuentes’s writings as a springboard for his discussion, Van Delden presents a comprehensive analysis of Fuentes’s intellectual development in the context of modern Mexican political and cultural life. Includes extensive notes and a helpful bibliography.