Bolívar, the Liberator Analysis
Bolívar, the Liberator is a straightforward biography that is suitable for any young reader. Syme takes the facts of Bolívar’s life and recounts them in a manner that is sensible and easy to follow. In doing so, he necessarily simplifies many of the complex concerns of such an influential leader as Bolívar, such as his mixed racial back-ground, his family’s wealthy heritage, and the conflicts between his idealism and the realities of South American politics. Such issues are not overlooked, but they are mentioned and given attention only as they relate to the sequence of biographical detail.
Syme treats Bolívar’s adolescence and young adulthood in detail, giving importance to his youthful reputation as a carefree playboy millionaire and to the transformation that he undergoes as he becomes a single-minded soldier. While touching on the influence of Rodriguez Carreño and his liberal ideas, Syme describes Bolívar’s transformation from the outside, with little insight into the leader’s thoughts, convictions, and inner struggles. Conversely, at the end of Bolívar, the Liberator, Syme chooses to dwell on the heartbreak that Bolívar feels as he sees his vision of a federated South America fail under the pressure of petty, ambitious politicians and to give fewer details about the specific political maneuvers and machinations causing that failure.
Syme attempts to maintain an objective attitude toward his subject, but occasionally his tone becomes adulatory, waxing broad with the rhetoric of revolutionary struggle and military glory. He evaluates the various theories regarding Bolívar’s role in the arrest of Francisco de Miranda—some of which cast the young leader in a very unflattering light—but ultimately dismisses those that are the most critical and assumes the best about Bolívar’s motives. Syme is generally indulgent and respectful toward his subject. This attitude is reflected in the larger approach of the narrative, which isolates and magnifies the most dramatic moments of Bolívar’s life, and in Syme’s quoting from Bolívar’s rhetorically powerful speeches. Syme’s view of Bolívar affects his view of the struggle for South American independence, and his discussions of the Spanish colonists and the rebellious natives often become two-dimensional in their clear ideological tilt.
Syme’s tone at points becomes surprisingly condescending in very generalized ways. When he notes, in his introductory chapter on the social and historical background of Venezuelan society, that “only a very small percentage of even the wealthiest Creoles—men whose ancestors had conquered the country—were given the least share in its administration,” an ironic chord is evident. Speaking again of...
(The entire section is 668 words.)