The Old Gringo Essay - Critical Evaluation

Carlos Fuentes

Critical Evaluation

Carlos Fuentes’s The Old Gringo demonstrates many of the writer’s artistic and philosophic concerns. In this multifaceted story, Fuentes reflects his passion for language and literature and the influences of many writers and thinkers. He expands on his consideration of the nature of time; explores the contrast between reality and dreams and other psychological, often unconscious, motivations; continues to define the Mexican character; and contributes to the canon of modern, innovative literature

This novel is a story of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). Drawing on other Latin American writers who have explored the revolution and elaborating on the theme of time—la edad del tiempo (“the age of time”)—around which he has organized all of his fiction, Fuentes shows in this novel, the fourth cycle of time explorations, el tiempo revolucionario (“the time of revolution”), the ways the revolution reveals both the ideals and betrayal of those ideals in this cause. He simultaneously shows the influence of unconscious motivation on action and the ways such motivation impacts the lives of others.

The influence of dreams, a theme inspired by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, inspires the actions of the characters. The central characters often inhabit a dream world that is more real to them than is “real life.” Here they fulfill their dreams imaginatively or symbolically, transforming their lives and the lives of others. The old gringo comes to Mexico planning to die as a man of action; Harriet Winslow wants to reinvent herself and find, in some way, her father who has abandoned his family while ostensibly going to fight in Cuba; Tomás Arroyo, a young Mexican revolutionary, seeks to overthrow the social order and the government and to take revenge on his father as well. They all use each other to fulfill their own dreams.

While the gringo comes to die, he then becomes enthralled with...

(The entire section is 802 words.)