Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Cortázar’s writings are marked by an effect of discontinuity and fragmentation which is attained through various literary means. In Hopscotch, the sequential modality of chapters is broken by altering the continuity of their numbers. In Libro de Manuel (1973; A Manual for Manuel, 1978), the typical page is distorted by the inclusion of journalistic passages and by other devices. 62: A Model Kit is no exception to the experiment that seeks to break away from the established institution of the novel. Cortázar, through Morelli’s above mentioned book, proposed that some of the main elements of this genre need to be revised or discarded in order to provide space for the “final mutation” of man. This new man, writer and reader, yearns to dislodge himself or herself from old, worn forms, such as realism, psychology, reason, feeling, and pragmatism. Cortázar willfully deviates from the “true-to-life” feature that is expected to produce an identificatory reality in fiction. In this case, the transgression is done at the level of the genre itself. The characters, however, constitute a group whose rebellious stand reaches beyond the limits of the book to criticize some aspects of Western culture and society.

The group, for example, takes precedence over the concept of the individual. Play and eroticism, two important areas in the novel, require more than one person in order to take place. The voice of the paredros decenters the discourse of any given subject, and since he or she could be a number of characters, it affirms the group at the expense of the individual figure. The doll, like the anthropological mana, is a gift (perverse, transgressive in this case) which binds Juan, Tell, Celia, and Hélène; by extension, it binds all of the friends, except Feuille Morte. The imaginary city, known to all of them, but where meetings never occur, is enveloped by an aura of darkness and death. There one is alone. It is in the city, also, where the characters cease to laugh and play. Cortázar, throughout the novel, attacks the idea of the serious in a dionysian, joyous vein, and he stresses the importance of the game. Monsieur Perteuil, patriotic and hardworking, exemplifies all the virtues of the middle class but turns out to be blatantly ridiculous.