Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The principal theme of Julio Cortázar’s story is one man’s longing for a simpler, less encumbered existence. Trapped in a dull, monotonous occupation, Marini spends his life on the move, without settling down or establishing permanent relationships. With lovers in several cities and no fixed residence, he lives in the air, literally and figuratively. When Carla writes to him that she is pregnant and suggests that they marry, he only sends her money to pay for an abortion. The protagonist is identified only by his last name, which is reminiscent of the Spanish word for sailor, marino, and Marini is indeed a modern-day mariner who travels from airport to airport without laying down roots.

Another salient feature of Marini’s life is that he is separated from nature. Locked up in the plane, peering at the tiny island down below, he is imprisoned by the accoutrements of advanced civilization. The physical distance between the high-flying jet plane and the island is a symbol of Marini’s—and, by extension, modern humanity’s—alienation from the natural world, which in turn is symbolized by Xiros, a place of sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, and lush vegetation.

As soon as he arrives on the island, Marini undergoes a spiritual rebirth. For him, this is the dawn of a new day. No longer will he inhabit a world of fast-moving machines and ephemeral personal encounters. The island offers him the possibility of a more placid and genuine...

(The entire section is 515 words.)