Tell Them Not to Kill Me!

by Juan Rulfo

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Where does the point of view shift to first person in "Tell Them Not to Kill Me!" by Juan Rulfo, and how does it affect the narrative's tone?

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In "Tell Them Not to Kill Me!" by Juan Rulfo, the author switches from third person to first person in the midst of the story so that readers can understand how Juvencio thinks. The first-person passage is an interior monologue full of self-justification. Juvencio has thoughts only for himself and his decades-long flight from the authorities. It does, however, inspire some sympathy for Juvencio now that he is a frightened old man.

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In “Tell Them Not to Kill Me!” by Juan Rulfo, the author initially uses dialogue along with third person point of view, employing an apparently neutral narrator. In the second section, use of a third-person narrator continues, followed by a shift to first person when Juvencio Nava picks up the narration, stating that, “I was already up in the mountains.” Along with changing the narrator to Juvencio, the author also shifts to a reflection on past events, thereby providing a context for the present-day situation, in which Juvencio is pleading for his life. The change in tone to bitter reminiscence increases the reader’s sympathy for the older man.

The initial dialogue occurs between Juvencio and his adult son, Justino. The reader learns only that Juvencio is likely to be killed and wants the reluctant Justino to intervene. In the next part, third person is used to provide the context for this dilemma. This includes the information that Juvencio has been apprehended for killing another man, Lupe Terreros, as well as some background and the relationship between the men.

The next shift clarifies that the events happened in the distant past, more than three decades earlier. Significantly, Juvencio’s reminiscences about that time include the difficulties everyone faced in a severe drought, which in his mind legitimize his killing the powerful landowner whom he believed exploited him.

This happened thirty-five years ago in March, because in April I was already up in the mountains.

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Early in "Tell Them Not to Kill Me!" Rulfo suddenly changes the point of view from third person to first person. Why? Does it change the way we feel about Juvencio Nava at this point in the story?

The short story "Tell Them Not to Kill Me!" by Juan Rulfo tells of a man who murders his neighbor and then spends most of his life on the run from the authorities. It begins with a prelude in which Juvencio Nava, the killer, is talking with his son, begging him to intercede with the colonel who has captured him. His son objects, saying that the colonel might kill him too, and then there would be no one to care for his wife and children. His father doesn't care about that. He is willing to risk his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren to save his own life. This sets the tone for the entire story. Later we learn that Juvencio also let his wife leave him without a fuss so that he could remain in hiding and save his own life.

After the opening dialogue between Juvencio and his son, Rulfo flashes back to the story of how Juvencio came to kill his neighbor Don Lupe. It all happened due to an argument over pasture land for Juvencio's livestock. Juvencio cuts holes in Don Lupe's fencing so that his animals can graze on Don Lupe's grass. In retaliation, Don Lupe kills one of his animals.

It is at this point that Rulfo switches the point of view from third person to first person. The next several paragraphs are an interior monologue by Juvencio. Rulfo does this so that readers can understand Juvencio's state of mind as he runs away. It is important to note that Juvencio does not dwell on the act of murder he has committed but only on his own difficulties of escaping the authorities, being on the run, and growing old. He is completely self-centered, expressing no thankfulness to his son for sheltering him and no sympathy for the widow and children of the man he has killed.

Despite his utter selfishness, this interior monologue may inspire some measure of sympathy in readers for Juvencio as a tired and discouraged old man. We see that in the end, even the son of the man he has murdered relents at the old man's pleading, allowing him to get drunk so that his execution will not be so painful.

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