Style and Technique
As is the case with master and slave, Blacamán the Good and Blacamán the Bad are doubles. They are contrary facets, ultimately undistinguishable, of the same malicious process or phenomenon (“malicia” in Spanish means, among other things, “duplicity”): art. Their lack of a discrete personal identity is reinforced technically in the story by the use of a “floating” point of view. The voice of Blacamán the Bad is embedded in the narration of Blacamán the Good, with no quotation marks to set them apart, as in the following passage:From the first Sunday I saw him he reminded me of a bullring mule, . . . except that at that time he wasn’t trying to sell any of that Indian mess but was asking someone to bring him a real snake so that he could demonstrate on his own flesh an antidote he had invented, the only infallible one, ladies and gentlemen, for the bites of serpents, tarantulas, and centipedes plus all manner of poisonous mammals [italics, to signify the voice of Blacamán the Bad, not in the original].
There is thus not one “point” from which the narration originates but a field in which it circulates. Blacamán the Bad’s voice is within Blacamán the Good’s, just as the opportunism and rancor of the one informs the other. In addition, the hyperbolic rhetoric of the sideshow barker, a style that runs through all of “Los funerales de la Mama Grande” (“Big Mama’s Funeral”) and which Blacamán the Good adopts when he assumes the mantle of vendor of miracles, sustains the tension between appearance and reality.
The last device worth noting is the multiple use of memory. Memory, of course, is the key to all narration of events in the past. Special attention is drawn to the act of remembering in the story when the narrator claims to recall a scene from more than a century previous as clearly as if it had happened the week before. As the anecdote develops, memory becomes essential to the characters’ survival, for when they are alone and starving, they use nostalgia as a means of fooling death. As a businessperson, Blacamán the Good panders to the tourists’ memories (“souvenirs” in French). Moreover, the desired effect of the narrator’s vengeful coup depends on memory, for Blacamán the Bad’s sentence is to live interred forever and to remember why. It is, finally, Blacamán the Good’s memory of his evil double’s discomfiting recollections that makes his revenge so sweet.