Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A striking stylistic element in “The Man Who Found a Pistol” is the use of the fantastic to describe the eerie relationship between the man who found a pistol and nature. Anaya has defined the Aztlán nature metaphorically “as almost a religious experience, or a religious communication that man has with his earth when the two come to meet at one point and the power that is in each one is energized, no longer remaining negative and positive, but fusing together.” The descriptive technique of presenting surrealist incidents as plausible and even normal reminds the reader of Latin American Magical Realism. Believing that anything is possible in nature, the narrator understands that the man who found a pistol perished because of enigmatic natural powers: “When one is alone, the hum of the earth becomes a mantra whose vibration works its way into the soul. Maybe the man was sucked deeper and deeper into that loneliness until there was no escape.”

Anaya’s use of the fantastic is most visible in the story’s unexpected ending. Although the reader knows from the beginning that the man who found a pistol is dead, a twist in that information is revealed by Procopio, a believer in supernatural happenings. The man who found a pistol, Procopio adds rationally, was killed by himself, by his double. The ending helps to emphasize a crisis related to the main metaphysical theme: how to achieve knowledge of the self through understanding of nature. As that moment of self-recognition is brief and evasive, the myth, defined by Anaya as the truth in the heart, provides an answer to the spiritual quest. Through the use of the fantastic, the story’s ending provides a lesson in the best Jungian folktale tradition, provoking in the reader an alluring sense about the meaning of life: “What is the future, I thought, but a time which comes to swallow what we make of life.”