Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 200

The Labyrinth of Solitude is a collection of essays by Mexican writer Octavio Paz. Although the essays vary in sub-topics, the general theme of the collection centers on the Mexican identity. More specifically, Paz analyzes and comments on Mexican culture, history, and the Mexican psyche. Some of the poems are observations on major political events in Mexican history, such as the 1910 Revolt and the Tlatelolco massacre. In terms of chronology or scope, the essays cover the Pre-Columbian period up to the mid-twentieth century.

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The title is a reference to a passage in the book in which Paz opines that solitude is an integral element of the human condition, that solitude is the purest form of our existence as a species. He then relates this philosophical idea to the psychology of Mexican people. Paz believes that the Mexican identity is divided between its European and indigenous ancestries and that abandoning either one will lead to solitude.

Another theme in the book is Paz's criticism of the urban intellectuals of Mexico. In particular, he criticizes the Mexican intellectuals who participated in political discourse and activism. He believes that intellectuals should try to retain their objectivity by maintaining their distance from political movements.

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