Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The symbols of moon and bonfire which pervade the book serve as a counterbalance to the narrator’s grim view of life, providing a context of ambiguity which suggests a point of view wider than despair, one that embraces hope and affirms the value of the mystery of life. The symbols first appear in a conversation between the narrator and Nuto. The farmers, the reader learns, light bonfires on St. John’s Eve as a way of renewing the fertility of the land.

The narrator scoffs at the practice, dismissing it as peasant superstition. Nuto, the realist, gently scolds him, reminding him that he has been away too long to understand truly these customs and traditions. The moon, like the bonfires, brings the good things in life, forcing the people to live according to natural cycles and thus become part of the earth’s mysterious process of regeneration.

His cynicism toward the value of these symbols is a reflection of the narrator’s hardened attitude toward life, his inability to believe in the inherent spirituality and mystery of the world. This faith is difficult to maintain in the face of the violence and death which form the core of the narrator’s experience.