Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

There are three major themes in Men of Maize: struggle, paternity, and the genetic process of myth. The first of these is the most readily apparent and one that is a factual reflection of social conditions in twentieth century Guatemala. When Asturias conceived this novel, his country’s society was divided into two factions: the haves and the have-nots (Indians for the most part). In the vision of the novel, the differences between these two factions are not simply economic but, more profoundly, of an ethical nature. Essentially, what distinguishes them is an attitude toward life. The Indians live in harmony with nature; the outsiders (represented by the commercial maizegrowers) exploit nature to make a living, which is equated with barrenness in Asturias’s scheme. Yet the exploiters of the land have the upper hand, while the Indians are portrayed as a strayed race, wandering and blind but by no means lost. Asturias points the path to salvation by underscoring the need to return to the land, the natural harbor and seedbed of the race. The first step in order to restore the lost order of the Mayan forefathers is to eradicate evil; the second is to heed the voice of tradition (of the past). The new man that Asturias is extolling must put his ear to the ground and remove the veil of blindness from his eyes. If he does, he will establish a nexus with the roots of his culture, as do Goyo and Nicho, who both transform themselves into their protective animals...

(The entire section is 565 words.)