Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 311
The President/ El Señor Presidente is Guatemalan author Miguel Angel Asturias’s vivid denunciation of the evils of tyranny. It is notable both for the gritty realism of the themes, as well as for the fantastic, even surrealistic descriptions and language. Asturias uses figurative language liberally as well as specific literary devices to create and accentuate the surreal effect. For example,to contrast silence to noise, he uses senses other than hearing.
A strange wind was blowing across the plain of his silence, where a wild vegetation was growing, as thirsty as tearless eyelashes, as thirsty as prickly cactuses, as thirsty as trees unrefreshed by rain. What was the meaning of this desire? Why should trees be thirsty when it rains?
A straightforward statement may be followed by a convoluted description. After Rodas, a would-be recruit to the secret police, declares “This is my lucky night!” Asturias tells us that he repeated the words
in a piercing tone, increasing in shrillness each time, he seemed to transform the night into a black tambourine decorated with gold bells; to be shaking hands with invisible friends in the wind, and inviting the puppet-master of the Cathedral Porch and his marionettes to come and tickle his throat till he burst out laughing.
Asturias also uses personification to compound the characters’ confusion about the unfolding violent events as the beggar Pelele, or Zany, is pursued and tortured. After they are shot at, rather than the people, the author tells us that
the streets ran one after the other, all scantily clad in moonlight, and not knowing what had happened, while the trees in the square twisted their fingers together in despair because they could not announce the event either by means of the wind or the telephone wires. The streets arrived at the crossroads and asked one another where the crime had taken place.
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