Tell Them Not to Kill Me!

by Juan Rulfo
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How is the theme of anticipation of death portrayed throughout "Tell Them Not to Kill Me!" by Juan Rulfo?

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At the beginning of the story, Juvencio Nava is an older man, and he begs his son, Justino, to intercede on his behalf so that he is not killed, the punishment for having murdered a man called Don Lupe thirty-five years before. He had hoped that his crime would be forgotten—especially because he bribed the judge who initially tried the case—but it has not been. Don Lupe's widow died soon after he did from her grief, and his two children were carted off to live with family. Despite the fact that Juvencio is now an old man, he is not allowed to find peace because of his crime.

He'd clung to this hope with all his heart. That's why it was hard for him to imagine that he'd die like this, suddenly, at this time of life, after having fought so much to ward off death, after having spent his best years running from one place to another because of the alarms [and] hiding from everybody.

Juvencio has been anticipating and trying to avoid this death for a lifetime now. Anticipating death has almost been the story of his life! Having been captured, he knows now that he faces almost certain death:

He began to feel that stinging in his stomach that always came on suddenly when he saw death nearby...

It turns out that the colonel who has ordered Juvencio's capture is the son of Don Lupe, and Juvencio tries to plead his case. He swears that he's "already paid" for his crime, that he's "paid many times over" because he has spent nearly "forty years hiding like a leper" from the law. It seems, then, that the anticipation of death can actually result in the loss of a life, figuratively speaking. Juvencio's life has been overshadowed by his anticipation and fear of death; he's missed his son's marriage and grandchildren, he had to let his wife go.

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