The Southern Thruway

by Julio Cortazar

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 389

The engineer in the Peugeot 404 is the focal character in the story. He's traveling back to Paris when he and everyone else is stuck in a traffic jam. No one knows what caused it or when it's going to end. He eventually decides that it's not worth keeping time anymore. He's traveling alone, but he ends up forming a community with the people around him. In the end, he becomes upset when traffic clears and he loses track of the people around him.

The girl in the Dauphine is the one who the engineer has a romantic flirtation with. She insists on tracking the time even after the engineer stops. She sleeps in his car with one of the nuns at night. The girl says that she doesn't mind getting to Paris late, but it seems like a crime to make people stay stuck on the highway. She becomes pregnant by the engineer.

The nuns in the 2CV are traveling to Milly-la-ForĂȘt to bring greens to the cook.

The farmers in the Ariane help determine what provisions the people in their little group have and how they can use them to stay alive. They're farmers and embrace the idea of working together. Their farm is near Montereau

The men in the Taunus help the couple in the Ariane and the engineer manage the community they've created. They play dice at night.

The boys in the Simca are younger and energetic. They listen to the radio very loud. The engineer doesn't like them at first, but they still become part of the group. Their inflatable mattress is used by the girl in the Dauphine and one of the nuns at night.

The soldier and his girlfriend look like newlyweds. The soldier comes back from the farms with some water and provisions but doesn't say how he got them.

The man in the Caravelle keeps himself separate from the group and ends up committing suicide. They seal him in the trunk and decide that the farmer in the Ariane can drive the Caravelle to keep the highway clear.

Porsche is a man who controls the black market and gives provisions for money. The engineer and the others wonder if they might have to take him hostage at some point to determine where he's getting things if their money runs out.

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