Discuss the concept of “honor” in Lazarillo de Tormes. How does Lazaro’s definition of honor develop and change as a result of his life experiences from childhood to adulthood? How might this aspect of the novel contradict or confirm readers’ preconceptions and/or expectations of what “honor” either means or should mean?
Honor is seen as a code of conduct that precludes Lazarillo from degrading his own sense of self. While Lazarillo struggles with poverty and some brutal examples of abuse, he is honorable in how he never succumbs to committing acts that degrade himself or actions that deliberately take advantage of other people. As a child, his primary responsibilities include self- sustenance in terms of food and nourishment. These change as an adult when he apprentices for other adults and must make significant contributions to establishing his own welfare. In these shifting realities, Lazarillo maintains his honor. There are times when he might have to commit actions that sustain his own sense of self, such as stealing food or trying to earn a small pittance for his own being. Yet, he carries himself in an honorable manner in how he never deliberately manipulates another for his own gain and does not violate the trust placed within him. Sometimes, his willingness to stand for his honor causes him great challenge to himself. Yet, this honor is what remains constant throughout his life. At the end of the narrative, it is believed that he could commit any transgression and still be thought of in the best light. This is a result of Lazarillo's embrace of honor.
To a great extent, this upholding of honor is what challenges the reader's expectations. In seeing Lazarillo's economic and physical plight, one would think that honor would be sacrificed in order to advance in a setting that is clearly geared against him. However, it is precisely because of Lazarillo's honor that he becomes a heroic figure. Lazarillo demonstrates the power of honor as a force that enables the individual to be a part of the world, but not to succumb to it. It is an agent of transformation that enables the individual to demonstrate what can be in a world tethered to merely what is.