Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

There are several levels of meaning in the novel. On one level, it is a love story in which the desires of youth and beauty triumph over the reality of old age and death. In a basic sense, this is a story of the power of pure desire to overcome the limitations of external reality. On the unconscious level, it is an archetypal parable about the male who is seduced into the loss of the ego, which enables him to enter completely into the world of the woman, for it is indeed the imaginative reality of the female which constitutes both erotic and supernatural transcendence over the external world. Culturally, the story suggests a theme that Fuentes has explored in other works, the simultaneous existence of the old Mexico superimposed upon the new. In fact, “superimposition” is probably the key word for all of these themes, as, gradually, Aura is superimposed on Consuelo and Montero is superimposed on Consuelo’s dead husband.

The novel is narrated in the second person, in the present tense, as if Montero were recounting the events as they occur. For example, as he looks into the eyes of Aura for the first time, he sees them surge and change: “You look into them and tell yourself it isn’t true. . . . But you can’t deceive yourself: those eyes do surge, do change, as if offering you a landscape that only you can see and desire.” This unusual narrative strategy not only creates a sense of gradually engulfing mystery, much like that in a detective...

(The entire section is 554 words.)