I need an appreciation of the story "A Letter to God."

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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For your assignment to be a true appreciation of "A Letter to God," you must be sure to include the elements important to literary criticism.  That is, you are to determine the value of the short story by examining its content.  Although it is very short, "A Letter to God" has a large amount of literary value due to Fuentes' use of description, metaphor, simile, irony and humor.

First, Fuentes uses description that fits his setting of rural Mexico.  He shows his mastery of description in the first words of the story:

The house – the only one in the entire valley – sat on the crest of a low hill. From this height one could see the river and, next to the corral, the field of ripe corn dotted with the kidney bean flowers that always promised a good harvest. The only thing the earth needed was a rainfall, or at least a shower.

Using these words of description, the reader can see this "low hill" with its river and corral and corn and "kidney bean flowers."  There is also a vivid description of drought here (or at least the need for rain).

Second, Fuentes often uses figurative language in the form of both metaphor and simile.  Probably the best example of both can be found in this one line (which is a rarity in literature):

Lencho was an ox of a man, working like an animal in the fields.

The first part of the sentence is the metaphor and the second part of the sentence is the simile.  A metaphor is an unlikely comparison without using "like" or "as." So, here we see that Lencho is being compared to an ox, a large animal (a bit slow-witted, but very very strong and loyal).  A simile, then, is an unlikely comparison using the words "like" or "as."  Fuentes uses this comparison of Lencho "working like an animal" to stress the best animal qualities that Lencho, the ox, could have: strength, loyalty, perseverance.

Finally, Fuentes uses both irony and humor in his short story.  We see these mostly in the last few paragraphs.  In regard to irony and humor we have to look at situational irony specifically.  Lencho has written a letter to God, asked for money, received half the money, and gotten angry.  At this point we are wondering what Lencho has said in his second letter (which creates quite a bit of suspense for the reader).  It is the reader AND the workers at the post office who are surprised at the result:

God: Of the money that I asked for only seventy Pesos reached me. Send me the rest, since I need it very much. But don’t send it to me through the mail, because the post office employees are a bunch of crooks. Lencho.

This is a surprise.  As readers, we will never know whether Lencho was angry with the postal workers or with God.  Does Lencho know the postal workers are reading the note, and is angry about that?  Is Lencho actually angry with God for not sending the money in the way he would have wanted?  Or perhaps Lencho is angry with God for using the postal workers to do a good deed?  Does Lencho actually think the postal workers stole some of the money?  We can go even further with this irony and say that, if this is true, and Lencho really does think the postal workers are crooks, he does so through false judgement (which is not a Christlike trait).  In any case, this situational irony is also an example of humor.  Where the reader most likely would have been expecting Lencho to be angry at God for not fully granting his respect, he is actually angry at his fellow man for "stealing" the money from God.

Thus, we can safely say that Fuentes has written a masterpiece here due to his use of description, figurative language, and irony.  I particularly like how the story drops off sharply at the end so that we never know exactly what Lencho meant by his last statement in the letter.  We are only left with what Fuentes wants us to take away as important: Lencho has an incredible faith in God.