Tell Them Not to Kill Me! by Juan Rulfo

Start Your Free Trial

Download Tell Them Not to Kill Me! Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary

In this short story, Juvencio Nava pleads with his son, Justino, to advocate on his behalf before the colonel. Juvencio is behind bars for the death of Don Lupe Terreros, whom he killed 35 years ago. Even though Juvencio is an old man, his past has caught up with him, and he's been sentenced to die for Don Lupe's murder.

Juvencio's son is initially hesitant to advocate on his father's behalf but soon relents.

Accordingly, Juvencio killed Don Lupe because the latter wouldn't let his cattle graze on his pasture. At the time, Juvencio was desperate to feed his cattle, and Don Lupe's pastures seemed to be the only solution to an extremely challenging situation. As for Don Lupe, his frustration led him to kill one of Juvencio's yearlings. In retaliation, Juvencio murdered Don Lupe.

After Don Lupe's death, Juvencio lived like a hunted man. Whenever strangers came to town, he would take off to the mountains to hide. He bribed the judge and the posse in order to save himself, but it was useless. They came after him anyway. In the end, Juvencio went to live with his son at Palo de Venado.

Now, in his old age, Juvencio had hoped that he would be left alone. However, this was not to be.

Eventually, Juvencio is interrogated by the colonel. As for the colonel, he reveals himself as Don Lupe's son and tells Juvencio that his father died in agony with an ox goad stuck in his stomach.

Upon hearing this, Juvencio begs for mercy. He tells the colonel that he has been on the run for forty years and has lived in fear all that time. Despite this, the colonel orders his soldiers to execute Juvencio by firing squad.

In the final scene, Justino (Juvencio's son) comes to pick up Juvencio's corpse. He tells the dead Juvencio that his wife and children will hardly recognize him, especially after they see his face so full of holes.

Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Juvencio Nava cries out, “Tell them not to kill me!,” pleading with his son, Justino, to help him. Juvencio, who is in his sixties, has just been arrested for a crime he had committed thirty-five or forty years earlier. At first, Justino is reluctant to interfere, fearing that the police or the soldiers may arrest him too or even shoot him. Then there will be no one left to care for his wife and children. He finally relents and offers to see what he can do to assist his father.

As he waits, tied to a post, Juvencio recalls the past events that led up to his present predicament and circumstances. Years earlier he killed Don Lupe, his neighbor and the landowner in the areas of Alima and Puerta de Piedras. The two men had been feuding over grazing and water rights during a particularly dry spell. Don Lupe refused to let Juvencio’s animals graze on his property. After several warnings, Don Lupe finally killed one of Juvencio’s animals for wandering onto his land. In retaliation, Juvencio killed Don Lupe.

Juvencio then bribed the judge to release him and bribed the posse not to follow him, but they came after him anyway. He finally escaped and went into hiding with his son in Palo de Venado. He later learned that Don Lupe’s widow had soon died; their two small children had been sent far away to live with relatives. Therefore, Juvencio thought that he might be relatively safe and that the incident would gradually be forgotten. He still lived in fear of detection, however, hiding out or going on the run whenever he heard that outsiders or strangers were in the area.

Meanwhile, Juvencio’s son grew up, married a woman named Ignacia, and fathered eight children. Juvencio’s own wife abruptly left him one day, but he dared not go searching for her because he still feared capture. He did not want to leave his hiding place to go into town. All he had left to save was his own life. He thought and hoped that after so much time, he would finally be left in peace, an old man in his last years, a threat to no one.

Now they have arrested him after all. They have even tied him up, even though he is too old and weak to try to escape. They say...

(The entire section is 1,120 words.)