The Anger That Breaks the Man into Children

by Cesar Vallejo
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Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427

Considered in the context of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Vallejo’s Peruvian nationality, and his Marxist beliefs, the poem’s political implications should not be overlooked. Mention of “the poor” politicizes the poem and focuses on the failure of the social order; however, more important than this failure is the qualitative superiority of the anger of the poor, the only anger strong enough to be revolutionary.

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In a more personal reading of the poem, however, “the poor” may be interpreted to refer to the poor in spirit—another Christian reference. The poem then becomes about the human struggle to cast off the limitations of individuality and relocate in a collective energy, the central problem in a number of other poems in Poemas humanos. However, in “The Anger That Breaks the Man into Children,” the poet does not disown feelings, which are repercussions of one’s individuality, but, with the emphasis on the anger the poem continually returns to, insists on them. This anger will be the destructive force necessary to break through the artificial constructs of individuality and social order to reach the origin of the individual, in other words, the point at which the individual ceases to be and becomes part of the whole.

There is debate among critics of Vallejo’s place as a modernist poet, but his distrust in this poem in the myth of progress is markedly modern. Here Vallejo depicts evolution, biological and cultural, as a movement away from origins and toward falsehood, the particular falsehood of poverty. Vallejo’s antidote is anger, but the anger is located in that fire fueled only by faith.

Vallejo’s four volumes of poetry may be ordered by the evolution of faith they demonstrate. His first two collections, Los heraldos negros (1918; The Black Heralds, 1990) and Trilce (1922; Eng. trans., 1973), reveal a poet uncertain about almost everything: his national and political sympathies, the power of language, the possibility of faith and connection. Yet in this third volume, there is a shift toward solidarity, faith, and passion. Interestingly, the real efficacy of these on the future is not of central concern. Rather, in “The Anger That Breaks the Man into Children,” it is the anger itself that matters. It is staying in this anger, at the very center of it, burning, that matters. It may or may not allow transcendence—Vallejo stops short of this question or finds it irrelevant—but it does return one to the origin, the only place where deepest regeneration—revolution, in every sense of the word—can ever begin.

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