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Gazapo Summary

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Most of the action of the novel takes place as the characters drive around Mexico City, searching for something meaningful to do. The action centers on the young and misunderstood Menelao, who has been abandoned in a seedy apartment by his divorced mother. Having left his father’s home because of his stepmother, Menelao cruises the city with his friends as they all tell stories about their escapades. The narration begins with a collage of actions: Vulbo’s telephone conversation with Menelao describes the gang’s previous evening’s activities; Menelao, in bed, imagines their drive to his father’s house in a stolen car to recover his possessions, a fact which he verifies later in a conversation with one of them; Menelao remembers his dream about Gisela, in which all is well with his family. The vantage point of this series of actions is unclear, although Menelao appears to be piecing the facts together while lying in bed. The first chapter is typical of the narrative as a whole in that events are told from different points of view and are presented in a deliberately ambiguous manner. To these actions are added tape recordings, diaries, and summaries of past events. Menelao retells the history of the fight with his father in an encapsulated version: “a) One day he went on a picnic somewhere and I quarreled with Matriarca. . . . b) Matriarca always manages to get mixed up in my business. . . . c) One evening, after an argument, I piled all my clothes. . . .” He seems to be impatient with his role as storyteller so he turns to other forms of communication for help.

Two matters preoccupy Menelao and serve as catalysts for the action: his relationship with Gisela, whom he wants to seduce, and the disintegration of his family. He convinces Gisela to go to his apartment, where he makes his advances. The novel becomes humorous when one realizes that Menelao pretends to know more about sex than he does: “I tried to convince her that sharing sexual interests and relations is very natural. Every person,’ I told her, is a coitus brought to a happy climax by his parents. Or an unhappy one, who knows?’ What is coitus?’” The scenes between the two young lovers always end badly. Once he writes all over her body with a magic marker which does not wash off; another time they are interrupted by the rent collector, whom Menelao tries to avoid. Although Menelao is thoroughly infatuated with Gisela, he mistrusts her, having caught her showering before an open window with Tricardio viewing from the roof. He also blames her for the break with his father, who dislikes her because she is of a lower social status. The relationship is further complicated by Menelao’s lies to his friends about having “scored” with Gisela. When they repeat the story in a taxi, the driver, Gisela’s father, overhears and forbids her to see Menelao again. Throughout the entire novel, nevertheless, the two lovers defy the adults by seeing each other when they should be in school.

Menelao’s independence is accidental. His mother, divorced from his father, who has married the domineering Matriarca, has gone away, leaving Menelao with no means of support. His father, overcome by his second wife, has let the situation in his home get out of hand and has sacrificed his son to his indecision. Left to his own devices, Menelao divides his time between Gisela and his friends, with no direction or aim. With precision, Menelao traces his...

(The entire section is 862 words.)