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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 472

The Labyrinth of Solitude is a collection of essays in which Octavio Paz explores aspects of Mexican and Mexican American identity in the 1940s-1950s.

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In the first essay, Paz explains the social position and overstated fashion (e.g. Zoot Suit) of the pachucos as the failed defense of a lost orphan, a:

…stubborn desire to be different, this anguished tension with which the lone Mexican—an orphan lacking both protectors and positive values…. The pachuco has lost his whole inheritance: language, religion, customs, beliefs. He is left with only a body and a soul with which to confront the elements, defenseless against the stares of everyone.

Paz's essay on “masks” as the public face that Mexicans put on conveys his attitude toward Mexicans in general and male “machismo” identity in particular:

The Mexican macho—the male—is a hermetic being, closed upon himself, capable of guarding both himself and whatever has been confided to him. Manliness is judged according to one’s invulnerabilitv to enemy arms or the impact s of the outside world. Stoicism is the most exalted of our military and political attributes.

Paz claims that attitudes toward death, perhaps more than to life, reflect modern Mexicans’ worldview:

Death … is no longer a transition, an access to another life more alive than our own. But although we do not view death as a transcendence, we have not eliminated it from our daily lives….. The Mexican… is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.

Further alleging that Mexicans do not “dare” to be themselves, Paz locates the origins of this fear in the country’s colonized origins, in women’s violation by the...

(The entire section contains 472 words.)

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