Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Up Among the Eagles,” like other stories in Valenzuela’s book of the same title, depicts the land, language, and mythical culture of rural Mexico in a pictorial way. The classical voyage of adventures and trials provides a thematic and structural framework for the narrative. This tale of self-discovery and transformation is told informally to an audience by a narrator who is trying to make believable what seems to be unbelievable. Interior monologue, dialogues, impersonal discourse with a distancing effect, and numerous rhetorical questions are included in the narration to create a sense of supposition, doubt, and ambiguity with different possibilities of interpretation.

Valenzuela believes that reality and truth are fictional constructs of the mind and linguistic inventions, and as such, they are not always what they seem to be. In this story, she strives to uncover another dimension of reality and a different way of thinking. She dramatizes an existential search for something not defined—perhaps for another truth or another face of reality—with challenging complexity and surrealistic style. The author shrouds the landscape in semidarkness and creates a surrealistic atmosphere through the insurmountable distance that must be overcome between the world up on the mountains and the world down below in the valley. The phantasmagoric effect is achieved by the merging worlds of the living and the dead. The focus on myth and magic, the interplay of fantasy and reality, the theme of the quest, and the role of language in fiction connects this story with Magical Realism and the literary movement known as the Latin American Boom.

The narrator, obsessed with death and fearful of the unknown, undergoes a sense of disintegration of the self. She takes photos of herself in search of self-recognition—likewise, the whole village creates a city of the dead as a mirror city of itself in a game of doubles, space, and time. In a climactic scene, at the end of the story, she becomes disembodied and her former self vanishes in the last picture. However—as in the case of her identity, which is deconstructed and constructed again as it transforms itself into a new reality—in a cyclical and mythical world, there is always hope of a future existence and voice created from nothingness and evolving into a narrative—as the literary telling of this story exemplifies.