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Goytisolo, Juan 1931–

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Goytisolo is a Spanish novelist known for his works of ideological social comment. A child during the Spanish Civil War, he often reflects his experiences with a powerful, violent realism in works that are documentary in character. Considered part of the Spanish new wave, he has earned the reputation of the best Spanish novelist of his generation. (See also CLC, Vol. 5.)

Mary E. Giles

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1133

Juegos de manos [The Young Assassins] … reveals a … consistent and coherent treatment of the theme [of the scapegoat figure].

The narrative of Juegos de manos is structured into five main parts, formalized as chapters; these in turn are subdivided into cinematographically presented episodes. Through each of these five parts the scapegoat motif gradually takes shape as the characters assume appropriate archetypal roles…. [The] scapegoat motif effectively clarifies the universality of the novel's specific vision of man….

The novel as a totality forcefully portrays the alienation and lack of purpose in a group of bourgeois Madrid youths….

Each member of the group dramatically particularizes the collective anguish and lack of commitment. (p. 1021)

The archetypal function of chapter one is to establish an analogy between the anguish and disorientation of these youths and their counterparts' two thousand years ago. As man at that time lived in moral and physical despair without positive commitments, so, too, do the young people in Goytisolo's novel blindly and anxiously look for a meaning to existence. Man now, as then, uncertainly awaits redemption.

The many fragments of conflict—youth against society, against one another, against their own fears and insecurities—which fleetingly appear in chapter one coalesce and solidify in the second part….

The scapegoat motif in this part unfolds in two ways. First the decision to have one person assassinate the politician on behalf of the group sets up the role of scapegoat. Second, Luis' actions and words about David suggest another main role, the betrayer. The chapter in its entirety, then, brings the action onto a more immediately personal level by defining roles and suggesting players: David, the scapegoat; Luis, the betrayer. (p. 1022)

[There is a] possibility of a third major role in the archetypal story, to be played by Agustín Mendoza…. Agustín appears in scenes from part three as a figure of real and potential evil in relation to David. His evil is real because his pernicious hold over David causes the once obedient, industrious youth to abandon his studies, reject his family, and foolishly accept Agustín's negative values. The potential of evil emerges from ominous contrasts between David and Agustín: Agustín is strong, David, weak; Agustín, the leader, David, the follower; Agustín is dark (archetypal symbol of evil), David is blonde (symbol of good). (p. 1023)

Although the fourth chapter is the briefest of the five, its exclusive concentration on David's conflict vis-à-vis his scapegoat role makes it crucial in the development of the motif. Its very brevity combined with the intensity of David's emotional crisis creates a sense of urgency which is esthetically apposite to this climatic moment in the narrative. In these pages David consciously (interior monologue) and subconsciously (stream of consciousness) recalls his childhood, adolescence, and futile student years in Madrid. As he reflects upon himself in relation to his friends and society in general, through three separate but inter-connected divisions of the chapter, his archetypal function is brilliantly clarified.

The chapter opens with a scene of David seated contemplatively in his room. He picks up the pistol to be used in the assassination and...

(The entire section contains 3206 words.)

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Goytisolo, Juan (Vol. 133)