Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The meanings of “New Islands” are not explicitly stated. The reader allies with Juan Manuel as he tries (and fails) to find rational explanations for Yolanda’s appearance and behavior. Throughout the story, the irreconcilable opposition of rationality and instinct is stressed. The story is a collage or musical composition of repeating elements of this polarity. Descriptions of the howling wind, the wild pampa with its large insects, and Yolanda’s primitive dream forest alternate with the sounds of the passing train (modern, dehumanized technology), the volleys of shots fired by the hunters (humanity destroying nature), and the orderly labyrinth of city streets where Juan Manuel’s mother never gets lost. Images of Yolanda’s long black hair recur again and again, wild hair that streams around her, hair that covers “her face like a latticework of luxuriant vines,” a monstrous net that seems to trap her in her nightmare. Juan Manuel is entangled in this hair when he grapples with her in the night. It symbolizes passion, instinct, and untamed nature. In contrast to this, a repeated image of Juan Manuel is of him cleaning the mud off his boots, reestablishing order, aware of the precise hour (three o’clock, eleven o’clock) and of proprieties. Instinct, mystery, and dreams are contrasted with clarity, reason, and the valuing of analytical skills. The timeless disorder of the primeval past of Yolanda’s dreams is set against four measured days of ordered time.

The emergence and disappearance of the new islands is a mystery that is parallel (but not explicitly connected) to Juan Manuel’s attraction to Yolanda and his ultimate rejection of her. The four new islands are seen by the hunters on the first day, “still smoking from the fiery effort that had lifted them...

(The entire section is 731 words.)