*Jalisco (hah-LEES-koh). West-central Mexican state in which Rulfo grew up and which he used as a backdrop in most of his work. Rulfo also produced numerous photographs of the area, which vividly portray its people and places, as do his writings. Rulfo’s laconic writing style imitates the speech patterns of the region. He depicts the pessimism and despair he felt about much of rural Mexico as it lost residents to better jobs in the cities and across the U.S. border.
Comala. Fictionalized version of a real Mexican town in the state of Colima, not far from where Rulfo was born in neighboring Jalisco. These places appear both on maps and in Rulfo’s novel; however, the real places are greatly transformed in the novel. Comala is described as being so hot that former residents who end up in Hell must come home to fetch their blankets.
Rulfo’s fictional Comala is controlled by the iron hand of its patrón, Pedro Páramo. When he decides that the townspeople show insufficient respect upon the death of his wife, he turns his back on the town and lets it die. Like many other Mexican villages, it becomes virtually a ghost town after its young people leave to find employment in big cities, leaving behind only the elderly, who stay to care for the graves of their dead.
Pedro Páramo’s name itself, which means “rocky barren place” in Spanish, symbolizes the barren place that the town becomes and further links the character to the location.
Media Luna. Ranch that is run by Pedro Páramo, as it had been by his father before him and as it probably would have been run by his son Miguel, if the youth had not died at an early age. The story emphasizes the importance of keeping land in families through the generations. In Spanish, the ranch’s name means “half moon.”
La Andrómeda. Mine worked by Bartolomé San Juan, father of Susana. Taking its name from a celestial galaxy, it is one of many astronomical references found throughout the novel. Continuing with the theme of depth and death in the work, in some cases local graveyards in the area contain the dead buried on top of one another. They sigh, moan, and apparently converse. By the end of the novel, the reader concludes that all of the characters are actually dead, yet are able to communicate and relive their memories.
Brotherston, Gordon. The Emergence of the Latin American Novel. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1977. Discusses the plot of Pedro Páramo, the nature of its narrative, its themes, its atmosphere, and its place within the context of literature concerned with the Mexican Revolution. Good introduction to Rulfo’s fictional world.
Harss, Luis, and Barbara Dohmann. Into the Mainstream: Conversations with Latin-American Writers. New York: Harper & Row, 1967. Provides interview-based overview of Rulfo and his works. Discussion of works punctuated by comments from Rulfo himself. Excellent starting point for further study.
Leal, Luis. Juan Rulfo. Boston: Twayne, 1983. This solid study of Rulfo’s life and career contains two chapters dedicated to Pedro Páramo. Topics covered include the place of Rulfo’s novel within the context of the novel of the Mexican Revolution, the novel’s roots in Rulfo’s short stories, its structure, initial critical reaction, the work’s multiple narrative threads, and the role of imagery.
McMurray, George R. Spanish American Writing Since 1941: A Critical Survey. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1987. Offers concise commentary on Pedro Páramo before discussing Rulfo’s contribution to Spanish American fiction. Brief but good introduction.
Sommers, Joseph. After the Storm: Landmarks of the Modern Mexican Novel. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1968. Discusses the narrative perspective of Pedro Páramo, its structure, its characters, and, as Sommers puts it, the work’s “mythic underpinnings.”