Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Through three basic aspects of the society of Zapotlán—land, faith, and love— Arreola conveys a message of hopelessness in the contest between the individual or minority and the superstructure, a struggle which will always end ingloriously, with the defeat and disillusionment of the former. A number of dichotomies throughout the text illustrate that, despite the particular nature of such a dispute, be it oppressed/ oppressor, will/fate, virtue/vice, altruism/self-interest, or integrity/corruption, power determines victory, which will, in turn, secure that position all the more. The absurdity of the struggle is summed up in the figure of the clown, the only performer of any merit at the bullfight which takes place during the fair.

The novel communicates these ideas through two main structural patterns created with the vignettes of which The Fair is composed: the series that evolves over the course of the book and, in doing so, provides continuity (the stories of Juan Tepano, Don Manuel, and Father Zavala, for example), and the sequences formed around a topic such as religion or love, and which are interpreted by a variety of characters, situations, and viewpoints. In addition, antithetical or unrelated elements are juxtaposed to contrast or enhance, like the quiet chess game and the violent confusion of the earthquake, or the literal and figurative suicides of Paulina and Chayo next to Don Manuel’s premonitions about his crops. Also, time is reversed, as when the railroad man murders his wife after the narrative about the incident, or single units of time are interrupted and resumed, creating an effect of simultaneity. Narrative fragments are manipulated and arranged in such a way as to exhibit or emphasize the underlying meanings of the observable phenomena.