(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Sentenced to death, Pascual Duarte decides to write a history of his life to serve as a warning to others, or so he implies. Pascual was born to a poor Extremaduran peasant family and raised in an atmosphere of hate and resentment. Both parents were abusive drunkards, and his younger brother Mario was mentally disabled, unable even to walk. The only saving grace of the family was Rosario, his sister, but she left home to better her situation by becoming a prostitute. She returned home once, ill with fever, but left as soon as she was well. Fifteen years after Rosario, Mario was born. Two days before his birth, Pascual’s father, Esteban, was bitten by a rabid dog. The family, afraid of being attacked, locked Esteban in an armoire, where he died on the day of Mario’s birth, screaming, driven mad by the disease.

Mario, scorned by everyone except Rosario, crawled and lived on the floor with the pigs and dogs. One day, the pigs ate his ears, and, from then on, it was hard for the family even to look at him. Generally unresponsive, Mario would go into shrieking fits at the sight of pigs. During one of these episodes, Don Rafael, who may have been the boy’s father, kicked the child into unconsciousness, blood gushing from the boy’s ear cavity. Pascual’s mother laughed, but although Pascual, fearing to be called soft, also did nothing, from that day forward, his active hatred of his mother grew. Shortly afterward, Mario was found drowned in a vat of oil, perhaps murdered by Rafael.

Pascual fell in love with, and raped, Lola. On discovering that she was pregnant, he married her. On their wedding day, their horse injured an old woman, a bad omen that presaged Lola’s fall from that same horse on the day they returned from their honeymoon. The fall caused a miscarriage. Pascual was not with her. He was celebrating with friends in a bar, on a drinking spree that ended in Pascual’s seriously wounding a friend who taunted him....

(The entire section is 798 words.)