Themes

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This set of stories differs from earlier anthologies in its thematic focus. There is less emphasis on the abstract and metaphysical in favor of the ironic and the unexpected. "The Unworthy Friend" reworks a biblical episode from the perspective of a rather innocent betrayer whose experience appears small and insignificant. Unlike Judas who betrayed Jesus for money, Fischbein does it out of low self-esteem. In "The Meeting" and "Juan Murana" people are turned into weapons (knives) and weapons into people, a fancy that, Borges suggests, time may just be able to bring about. The outcome of a meeting between two unequal scholars in "Guayaquil" results in the victory of the less worthy because of his certainty.

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"Dr. Brodie's Report," a story whose title was derived from Lemuel Gulliver's last voyage, chronicles the adventures of a Scottish missionary in the midst of a cruel and violent Brazilian tribe, the Yahoos. Their society is markedly different from modern civilization. The level-headed Dr. Brodie informs readers that they are not a primitive people, as one would have expected, but a society very much like his own that has allowed itself to become degenerate.

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Characters