Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 616
All Green Shall Perish is divided into two parts. Each depicts a crucial period in the life of Ágata Cruz, and virtually all the action of the novel takes place within Ágata’s anguished consciousness. The theme and tone are established in the somber description of the desolate landscape of Nicanor Cruz’s estancia at the beginning of part 1. The drought suffered by the barren land is mirrored in the barren relationship of Nicanor and Ágata Cruz, who remain childless after fifteen years of marriage and estranged from each other by their inability to communicate and by an ever growing sense of isolation and resentment. Nicanor has lost his battle with the sterile land, although he stubbornly refuses to admit the defeat which has transformed him into a withdrawn and bitter man. Ágata, more sensitive and intelligent than her husband, asks more from life than he does and would have liked to help him during the early years, but Nicanor’s pride would not allow him to accept her help. Ágata is suffering from depression and resents being condemned to live out a life that she would never have chosen.
From this vantage point in time, Ágata reexperiences her past life in a series of flashbacks: first, the lonely childhood with her alienated father in the small port of Ingeniero White; then, her precipitous decision to marry Nicanor Cruz, a limited and taciturn man whom she did not love but who provided her with an escape from the stifling atmosphere of her childhood and the dreary prospect of life with her widower father, whom she loved but with whom she had never been able to communicate; finally, a series of grim and ever worsening incidents from her fifteen years with Nicanor. The cumulative effect of this introspection only deepens Ágata’s depression.
In his unrelenting struggle with the land, Nicanor contracts pneumonia. While nursing him, Ágata reaches a crisis of desperation. Hoping to destroy herself and end her unhappiness, Ágata opens all the windows to let in the cold. Nicanor dies, but Ágata is found unconscious on the porch at the end of part 1.
The second part of the novel begins in the southern metropolis of Bahía Blanca, where Ágata has moved following the sale of the estancia. Through the intervention of Ema de Volpe, a predatory and superficial woman who insists on taking Ágata under her wing, Ágata meets the lawyer Sotero. Ágata passively allows Sotero to seduce her, and, to her own surprise, she enjoys a brief period of happiness with this charming but shallow opportunist. Sotero, however, is incapable of committing himself to anyone for long, and he coldly abandons Ágata, leaving her with a note as he departs for Buenos Aires on business. His desertion confirms Ágata’s worst fears, as she is again thrown back upon herself. After her happiness with Sotero, Ágata finds solitude even more difficult to bear, and she gradually withdraws still further into her own consciousness, caring nothing for those around her or for her surroundings. In her desperate obsession to understand what is happening to her, she is drawn irresistibly back to the Ingeniero White of her childhood. Having lost all sense of time, wandering the streets of Ingeniero White like a madwoman, she is attacked by a gang of vicious children, who taunt and chase her. At the end of the novel, Ágata has lost all contact with reality except for the increasing intensity of her suffering. Her plight is poignantly captured in the last sentence of the novel: “It was very late when she got up suddenly, as if called by a scream, and, without direction or discernment, started running against the darkness.”
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