Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “The Silence of the Llano,” Anaya portrays a unique American region and its people through a powerful use of setting and character. His sharply drawn descriptions of the New Mexican plains and foothills create a powerful impression, forming a landscape that is in essence another main character. Anaya’s human characters are just as finely described as the landscape, and the combination forms a classic sense of place.

Anaya also makes frequent use of motifs and symbols. A number of key images echo throughout the story. For example, there is a hillside on which Rafael stops to watch with pride his young wife at work. This is also the place where he pauses to study the ominously silent ranch just before he discovers the rape. The blood of that rape reminds the reader of the blood of Rita’s birth, just as the stars that gave Rafael joy when his wife was alive give him a sense of aloneness when she is dead.

Drawing on the wondrous myths and legends of the Hispanic Southwest, Anaya creates symbols for “The Silence of the Llano” that further the story’s meaning as well as help create a sense of place. For example, in New Mexican culture, the owl is a bird of ill omens and death, and the coyote is a trickster who brings chaos and unwanted change. In a foreshadowing of the dark events to come, Rafael hears owls and coyotes after his wife arrives at the ranch, and his daughter hears them several nights before she is raped.

This use of regional mythology evokes the Magical Realism of Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, and other Latin American authors. In Magical Realism, the fantastic and the mundane often operate side by side, and this is certainly the case in “The Silence of the Llano.” When Doña Rufino is dying, she perceives the feminine figure of death riding across the plains on a wooden cart, and Rafael sees a woman riding a whirlwind using lightning as a whip. Indeed, it is through this magic that Rafael reconnects with his loving heart.