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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 185

One Day of Life, by Manlio Argueta, is a novel set right before the Salvadoran Civil War. This event occurred in 1979. In particular, it follows the life of Guadalupe Guardado and her family. Guadalupe starts out the novel in her middle age and living in El Salvador near the town of Chalatenango. Her husband, Jose, gets pulled into a rebellion in the country because of the poor state of the economy. Jose actually has to hide in the environment around the town, such as in the hills, to avoid being attacked for his part in the rebellion. Guadalupe’s son is executed by the government before the novel even starts.

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Eventually, Guadalupe and her daughter, Adolfina, are living together when the Salvadoran government turns up at their house with a man they beat up. They claim that he said Guadalupe’s daughter’s name during interrogation and ask if she knows him. Guadalupe says that she doesn’t, even though she recognizes her husband, Jose. She has to deny knowing him in order to stay safe.

The government walks off with him, and he disappears.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 912

The narrative thread recounts one day in the life of a middle-aged peasant woman, from 5:00 a.m., when she arises at dawn, until 5:00 p.m., when she lights the candles as darkness closes in. The chapters divide the day’s segments as she goes about her routine activities of cooking, child care, house and garden work, and musing about the people and events that have shaped and informed her life. This interior monologue reveals her past—the unremitting, wretched poverty as well as her simple, humble acceptance of the inhuman conditions under which she and the other peasants in the village live.

She muses about her childhood, her betrothal to José (Chepe) Guardado, their marriage, their children, their work, and their efforts to better their lot. By exercising extreme frugality, they have bought a small piece of land of their own. The carefully tended crops have enabled Lupe and Chepe to provide a few comforts for their meager existence; for example, they are able to buy a few toys and candies for the children at Christmas. Lupe recalls the early hardships, as when their child died of malnutrition, dysentery, and worms as many of the peasant children do, and how the “old priests” advocated resignation and hope of eternal happiness in heaven.

Then the “new priests” came and offered instruction and help in forming cooperatives, recommended pharmaceuticals to treat worms and dysentery, and cheese as food for malnourished babies. They encouraged the farm laborers to seek higher pay and the peasants to sell their goods in town, where they could get higher prices than the local merchant offered. Then she remembers how the authorities came and began abusing the peasants and finally attacked the priests. The priests were sent away, but the changes they had wrought could not be stopped, and the authorities became increasingly abusive as the peasants became increasingly assertive. The abuses included torture, imprisonment, and murder. Lupe’s son was one such victim, decapitated by the guards and his head stuck on a pole outside the village.

As the hours pass, Lupe reminisces about the increasing involvement of her family members in protest activities: Chepe has become a leader in the farm-workers’ movement; Helio Hernandez, Lupe’s son-in-law, has been seized by the guards for his activist involvement, and the family can get no information as to his whereabouts or fate. Lupe’s granddaughter, Adolfina Fuentes, who is a child of less than fifteen years, is the most outspokenly militant. She took part in a week-long demonstration in which a cathedral was seized and occupied by the peasants; as she was returning home, the bus...

(The entire section contains 1097 words.)

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