(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Pedro Páramo is one of the most important Mexican novels of the second half of the twentieth century. In episodes that recall a number of universal myths, and with Mexican characters who recall Odysseus, Telemachus, Oedipus, Electra, and others, Rulfo tells about people searching for identity in love, family origins, and interpersonal relationships.

Juan Preciado is sent by his mother Dolores to find Pedro Páramo, the father he never knew. Páramo abandoned Juan and Dolores before Juan was born. Juan’s half-brother Abundio guides him to Comala, located “at the mouth of Hell,” where ghosts speak from the grave to describe the sinister influence of Pedro Páramo on the town and its inhabitants. Juan dies without discovering his identity, since he never meets his father. Páramo died years before Juan’s arrival, murdered by his son Abundio.

Among the ghostly voices of Comala is that of Susana San Juan, Páramo’s childhood sweetheart and the obsession of his life. When young Susana left Comala in the company of her father, Bartolomé, Páramo waited thirty years for her return. When she reappeared, she was psychologically disturbed by an incestuous relationship forced upon her by Bartolomé. In her delirium, Susana confuses Bartolomé and Páramo with a third man: Florencio. Florencio is Susana’s husband, or perhaps he is a sublimation of the father figure in Susana’s mind. Susana finds happiness and fulfillment in fantasies about her relationship with Florencio. Her madness makes her inaccessible to Páramo. As does Juan, Páramo dies without finding the identity sought, in Páramo’s case, in the love of Susana San Juan.

Rulfo’s novel is presented in two sections. In the first, which has no chronology, the point of view is Juan Preciado’s, who is dead when the novel begins. The second section has an omniscient narrator who gives the history of Comala from Páramo’s childhood to the moment of his death. Thus, the time of the second section is prior to that of the first one.

The fragments of Pedro Páramo are like the shards of a broken mirror. They reflect the characters, their relationships, and their identities. It is up to the reader to reconstruct the mirror in order to discover the truth reflected in it.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Juan Rulfo’s novel Pedro Páramo stands at the forefront of Latin American works employing the techniques of modernism and Magical Realism. The novel begins in a straightforward fashion with a traveller, Juan Preciado, returning to the village of his mother’s birth, Comala. At a fateful crossroads meeting, he encounters his half brother, Abundio Martínez, who serves as his guide as he descends into the village.

As Juan Preciado arrives in Comala, he finds a town totally at odds with his mother’s recollections. Instead of the verdant, fertile town of her youth, he finds a deserted and rundown ghost town, whose scarce inhabitants lurk in the shadows and mumble mysterious comments. The novel rapidly becomes much more complex, introducing a series of plotlines in rapid, abruptly introduced vignettes that travel in and out of the minds of such characters as Pedro Páramo, Susana San Juan, Dorotea, Damiana, the village priest Father Rentéria, and Abundio Martínez, and back and forth across time.

The chronology of the story follows events in Comala from approximately 1880 to the Mexican Revolution in 1910 to the Cristero Revolt of 1926. The earliest events in the narrative describe the childhood and adolescence of Pedro Páramo, Juan Preciado’s father, and his love for Susana San Juan. Pedro Páramo grows up in a prominent landowning family in Comala, which has fallen on hard times as a result of the murder of Luis Páramo, Pedro’s father. Pedro grows up to take control of the family through ruthless behavior, violence, and murder, restoring the fortunes and power of his family at the expense of the people of Comala. He routinely preys sexually upon the young women of the town and eventually marries Juan Preciado’s mother, Dolores, as...

(The entire section is 725 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Juan Preciado, a peasant and Pedro Páramo’s son, in fulfillment of the last will of his mother, arrives on foot to Comala looking for his father. During his journey, another man had joined him; the traveler turns out to be another of Páramo’s sons. He tells Juan Preciado that their father was a “kindled rancor” and that he is dead. Preciado finds only one other person in Comala, Eduviges Dyada, an old friend of his mother, and she gives him shelter. The woman is dead, as is the companion of Preciado during the journey.

Pedro Páramo appears as a boy, dreaming of his childhood sweetheart, Susana San Juan, and doing some domestic chores. Susana is the only true, deep love of Páramo, in contrast to the many other women whom he has seduced, and raped. Eduviges Dyada tells Preciado that she should have been his mother, for on her nuptial night his true mother, advised by a soothsayer, asked Eduviges to take her place beside Páramo. Little by little, Páramo’s moral profile is drawn by Eduviges. She continues to tell Preciado what kind of man his father is. She tells of Miguel Páramo—the only son whom Pedro acknowledges—a violent, sexual predator who died in an accident. Father Rentería, the local priest, enters the plot. His brother had been murdered and his niece raped by Miguel Páramo, but he nevertheless had to celebrate a funeral mass and perform the last Catholic rites for the soul of Miguel.

To add to this conflict of...

(The entire section is 520 words.)