Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Manhunt artfully combines political, psychological, and philosophical themes. Based as it is on historical events, the novel re-creates the atmosphere of terror that pervaded some sectors of Cuban society during the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado, which Carpentier himself actively opposed. It is no accident that the whole novel takes place at night, for, in Carpentier’s view, this was indeed a dark moment in Cuba’s modern history. Beyond the novel’s political dimension, however, is the broader issue of the place of the intellectual in society. Written shortly after The Lost Steps (1953), Manhunt shares with this novel a concern with the social function of art. While in the earlier novel, however, one sees the protagonist trying to escape modern society by traveling to the South American jungle, in Manhunt the protagonist finds himself in the thick of the political turmoil of the time. The character in Manhunt who does represent the withdrawal of the artist from society is the ticket taker, an effete intellectual. A third important theme in the book is the psychological theme of betrayal. Almost all of the characters in the novel betray something or someone. The protagonist himself is guilty of several acts of betrayal: He betrays his comrades by informing, and he betrays his wet nurse by stealing her food. Other characters in the novel also commit acts of betrayal: Estrella betrays his whereabouts to the police, the...

(The entire section is 570 words.)