Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Mexico City

*Mexico City. Mexico’s capital city is the central location of the novel, providing a modern urban setting that contrasts with the country’s primarily rural history. Carlos Fuentes uses the city as a protagonist to which the characters must react as much as they interact with one another. Against this emerging modern backdrop, the characters struggle to understand their individual destinies, and in a collective sense, they embody the new, rising, modern Mexico coming to terms with the fallout of its early twentieth century revolution. The urban setting poignantly displays Fuentes’s cynical irony. The modern, postrevolutionary era does not provide equality nor justice. Remnants of classicism and political corruption abound.

The novel is framed with the question: “Here we abide. And what are we going to do about it? Where the air is clear.” Only in an ironic sense is Mexico City a place where the air is, in fact, clear. The phrase suggests a fatalistic alliance with a place that is changing but whose inhabitants have not yet figured out their role in the changes. There is no optimistic assertion that a movement toward capitalism and a middle class will satisfy the needs of the populace. Instead, the phrase suggests the betrayal of the ideals of the revolution that now finds itself played out in the dramas of citizens caught up in the cultural shift taking place.

Historically, Mexico City was the center of the indigenous Aztec culture and thus signified mythical and spiritual values of the land. The novel plays off this mythical association to suggest a spiritual decline of the citizenry. It calls into question...

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Where the Air Is Clear Historical Context

The Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was a result of a long line of squelched rebellions in pursuit of...

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Where the Air Is Clear Literary Style

Symbolism
The narrative of Where the Air Is Clear contains an abundance of symbols, which serve to relate Aztec mythology...

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Where the Air Is Clear Literary Techniques

Where the Air Is Clear is a very ambitious first novel by a young writer. Fuentes created a novel different from most Mexican novels...

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Where the Air Is Clear Ideas for Group Discussions

Carlos Fuentes is one of the four novelists most closely associated in the public mind with the great "boom" in Latin American Literature...

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Where the Air Is Clear Social Concerns

Through a huge cast of characters, Fuentes in Where the Air Is Clear attempts to show life in Mexico City in the early 1950s where...

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Where the Air Is Clear Compare and Contrast

1950s: The U.S.S.R. beat the U.S. into space with the launching of Sputnik in 1957.

Today: Russia insists on...

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Where the Air Is Clear Topics for Further Study

Do some research on Mexico's ‘‘Day of the Dead’’ celebration. What was the state of this celebration in the 1950s? How has it become...

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Where the Air Is Clear Literary Precedents

With the growth of cities which resulted from the industrial revolution, many writers, novelists in particular, began to make them the...

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Where the Air Is Clear Related Titles

Many of Fuentes's other novels recreate both the history of Mexico and its mythology. In Terra Nostra (1975), by far the longest novel...

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Where the Air Is Clear What Do I Read Next?

Several of the short stories collected in Fuentes' first book, Los Dias Enmascarados (The Masked Days) of 1954, are direct...

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Where the Air Is Clear Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Dwyer, John P., ‘‘Conversation with a Blue Novelist,’’ in Review, Vol. 12, Fall, 1974, pp. 54-8.

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Where the Air Is Clear Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Brody, Robert, and Charles Rossman, eds. Carlos Fuentes: A Critical View. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982. Good and varied collection of essays on the stories and novels.

Duran, Gloria. The Archetypes of Carlos Fuentes. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1980. Discusses female archetypes in Fuentes’ major works of fiction.

Faris, Wendy B. Carlos Fuentes. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983. Excellent introduction to Fuentes’ works. Focuses upon Fuentes’ capacity to absorb, transform, and transmit multiple voices.

Foster, David W. “La región más transparente...

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