The 168 lines of “Return” are divided into 7 stanzas of unequal length. “Return” marks Octavio Paz’s return to Mexico City after serving as Mexico’s ambassador to India between 1962 and 1968. He resigned this post after the massacre of Mexican students at Tlatelolco in 1968. The Lopez Velarde epigraph, which refers to the destruction of the Catholic provinces during the Mexican Revolution, calling the country “the subverted paradise,” mirrors Paz’s revulsion at seeing modern Mexico debased by a megalomaniac government and compliant citizens.
The first stanza is an objective rendering of the speaker’s walk through the streets of Mexico City and Mixcoac. The speaker’s tone is pleasant as he views “bougain-villea/ against the wall’s white lime.” The setting assumes the qualities of a painting except for the lines “Letters rot/ in the mailboxes,” which is the only negative image in the stanza and a reference to a lack of communication. The mention of Mixcoac, the Mexican home of Paz’s infancy, and the lines “I am walking back/ back to what I left” connect the reader to the speaker’s remembered past, a past that has all but vanished.
In the next stanza, the speaker loses contact with the external world. His objective state turns within as his body and spirit dissolve. He speculates about death in Mexico City under the “pounding fist of light.” The speaker wonders what it would be like to die in a city office or hospital or on a city pavement and concludes that such a death “isn’t worth the pain.” Pedestrians become unimportant, just as the speaker feels...
(The entire section is 664 words.)