Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most striking device in this story is its surprise ending, which permits several possible interpretations. From a psychological point of view, one can read this story as the history of an obsession. With his face pressed against the plane window, Marini is a man in the grip of an obsession. As the rest of his life becomes “blurred, as if taking the place of something else,” he turns into a monomaniac, a man whose whole existence revolves around the few moments each Monday, Thursday, and Saturday when he can gaze at the object of his fixation.

If this is so, then Marini’s visit to Xiros may well be no more than a hallucination. Perhaps the plane does go down, and Marini dies in the crash. The story’s conclusion would then be the record of Marini’s dying fantasies, the longed-for but never achieved existence that flashes before his eyes in the instants before death. One can also read the story as pure science fiction, postulating that, in the make-believe world that Cortázar creates, it is possible for a character to be in two places at once.

The device of depicting characters whose lives mysteriously split in two is a recurring motif in Cortázar’s stories. Indeed, some of this author’s best-known tales feature protagonists who live simultaneously in two different realms. Whether Cortázar intends these stories as sheer fantasy or as allegories of psychological states is not clear. What ultimately matters is that a story like “The Island at Noon” moves the reader to question the routines and expectations that make up everyday life in the highly mechanized modern world.