Form and Content
In Bolívar, the Liberator, Sir Ronald Syme has chosen a smooth-flowing, even cinematic, style to tell the story of the great eighteenth century South American freedom fighter Simón Bolívar. The book is divided into chapters with suggestive titles for the various phases of Bolívar’s life. The first chapter, however, begins the examination with Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the South American continent in 1498 and develops the historical and social background necessary to any understanding of Bolívar’s life and accomplishments. Syme’s narrative then follows Bolívar’s life from birth to death. The book has a very narrow focus, and little detail about the larger national or global context is given beyond that which is necessary to inform the discussion of Bolívar’s development.
After the first chapter, which gives a panoramic view of the first three centuries of modern South American history, the focus of the narrative is never divided: It stays on Bolívar, his movements, and the people with whom he was involved at any particular point in his life. The book re-creates the sense of a camera following a protagonist in close detail. The narrative closes after a description of Bolívar’s death, which is followed by a brief summary of his life’s work and a cursory discussion of those who succeeded him. (There is no final chapter on recent South American history, however, which would combine with the introductory chapter to...
(The entire section is 559 words.)