Carpentier's approach in this novel is compelling, as it describes the tale of a man's life, working backward from his deathbed.
The intriguing theme of time moving backward is the main theme throughout the novel. For example, in reality, candles become smaller when they burn, not larger. However, in this novel,
The candles lengthened slowly, gradually, guttering less and less. When they had reached full size, the nun extinguished them and took away the light.
This is another example of a time shift.
It was dawn. The dining room clock had just struck six in the evening.
As the man "slips towards life," all other things and move toward their original state:
furniture was growing taller . . .
Even metal from the earth is poured back into it. We see the
swelling river of metal running into the earth through roofless channels.
In this novel of magical realism, Carpentier expresses the impossible: trees losing rings over time, not gaining them.
The palm trees lost some of their rings.
In powerful symbolism, even the man and his house return to their beginnings of dirt/dust in the end of the book:
Everything was undergoing metamorphosis and being restored to its original state. Clay returned to clay, leaving a desert where the house had once stood.
Interestingly, after Don Marcial and his house are gone, time resumes its normal pattern.