Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This story focuses on several significant concerns in the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges. One of these is the Argentine concept of “the South.” The southern region of Argentina has both a history and a reputation similar to those of the western region of the United States; the term “the South” carries virtually the same connotations for Argentines as the term “the Old West” does for Americans. Virtually every aspect of the region, from its landscape to its colorful characters to its code of honor, has been romanticized in music, literature, and film. As is the case of the American West, much of the truth about the Argentine South has been replaced by myth. At the same time, much of what is no longer true about the South is still held to be true by many Argentineans. It is the romantic, mythical vision of the region and of those who inhabit it that Dahlmann clings to while living in Buenos Aires. It is also that vision that draws this library employee to the region and compels him to stand up courageously to his aggressors, something he probably would not do under similar circumstances in the city.

Of more profound thematic interest in “The South” is the concept of “real” reality versus “imagined” reality. It is necessary to describe reality as either “real” or “imagined” in the world of Borges’s fiction, for the author not only utilizes two types of reality but also deliberately makes little or no effort to distinguish...

(The entire section is 425 words.)