Pedro Páramo is one of the most important Mexican novels of the second half of the twentieth century. In episodes that recall a number of universal myths, and with Mexican characters who recall Odysseus, Telemachus, Oedipus, Electra, and others, Rulfo tells about people searching for identity in love, family origins, and interpersonal relationships.
Juan Preciado is sent by his mother Dolores to find Pedro Páramo, the father he never knew. Páramo abandoned Juan and Dolores before Juan was born. Juan’s half-brother Abundio guides him to Comala, located “at the mouth of Hell,” where ghosts speak from the grave to describe the sinister influence of Pedro Páramo on the town and its inhabitants. Juan dies without discovering his identity, since he never meets his father. Páramo died years before Juan’s arrival, murdered by his son Abundio.
Among the ghostly voices of Comala is that of Susana San Juan, Páramo’s childhood sweetheart and the obsession of his life. When young Susana left Comala in the company of her father, Bartolomé, Páramo waited thirty years for her return. When she reappeared, she was psychologically disturbed by an incestuous relationship forced upon her by Bartolomé. In her delirium, Susana confuses Bartolomé and Páramo with a third man: Florencio. Florencio is Susana’s husband, or perhaps he is a sublimation of the father figure in Susana’s mind. Susana finds happiness and fulfillment in fantasies about her relationship with Florencio. Her madness makes her inaccessible to Páramo. As does Juan, Páramo dies without finding the identity sought, in Páramo’s case, in the love of Susana San Juan.
Rulfo’s novel is presented in two sections. In the first, which has no chronology, the point of view is Juan Preciado’s, who is dead when the novel begins. The second section has an omniscient narrator who gives the history of Comala from Páramo’s childhood to the moment of his death. Thus, the time of the second section is prior to that of the first one.
The fragments of Pedro Páramo are like the shards of a broken mirror. They reflect the characters, their relationships, and their identities. It is up to the reader to reconstruct the mirror in order to discover the truth reflected in it.