Lazarillo de Tormes

Start Free Trial

What lessons does Lazarillo aim to teach readers in his autobiographical story?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What the character Lazarillo ostensibly wants the reader to learn and what the author wants are both relevant to your question. Lazarillo is of humble birth, and he must use his wits constantly just to survive. The mere fact of his survival is, for him, one of the most important lessons. Lazarillo constantly calls attention to the mechanisms that he uses, both honest and deceptive, to stay alive—including not dying of starvation. The author also encourages the reader to admire Lazarillo’s cunning. This quality is the essence of the picaresque hero, of which Lazarillo is one of the first; he remains iconic among all representations.

In contrast, however, Lazarillo’s pride in his accomplishments begins to come across in a negative way as he makes his way up the social ladder. Although he justifies his actions by emphasizing the negative qualities—even sins—of those he deceives, after a while his accusations of hypocrisy start to ring hollow. To advance his own stature, he adopts the ways of those he criticized. In this respect, the character’s goals and the author’s goals diverge. As this is a work of social satire, the reader obviously is not intended to admire Lazarillo when he indulges in the same vices as the people he took to task. The kindness and charity of his patrons, for him, offsets their corruption and even depravity. His lovely wife, for example, came to him through the archpriest’s kindness, but soon it is revealed that this priest fathered three children with her. While Lazarillo can set aside these transgressions, the author is not suggesting that the reader should do the same.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial