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Last Updated on August 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 330

Family Loyalty

In Juan Rulfo's story, the theme of family loyalty emerges strongly. Because the colonel's father was murdered, the sacred bond between father and son was simultaneous broken and strengthened: the colonel becomes determined to avenge his death.

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For Justino, loyalty to his father is at war with his own paternal responsibilities. Sandwiched between the aggressor and the defender is the guilty man himself, Juvencio, who must finally pay the price—not only for committing the murder but for conniving his way out of just punishment.

Duty, Revenge, and Justice

Closely related to family loyalty is the theme of duty and, by extension, revenge. This connects to the other general theme: what constitutes justice? Rulfo encourages the reader to consider what the proper solution to a long-standing problem of justice evaded.


The contrasting theme of compassion is also explored. If he were to find the killer, the colonel reasons, he might be moved by compassion. In that regard, the emotion is presented as an aspect of weakness; rather than face the condemned man, he orders the firing squad to carry out Juvencio's execution. Yet Juvencio had not shown compassion for Don Lupe's family when he callously deprived them of their father.


The overarching theme of masculinity pervades the story. If the colonel is to remain steadfast, he cannot indulge in any such "unmasculine" vulnerability. Juvencio's pride, in a contest of wills between the two men, had led to his wanton actions.

Generational Conflict and Familial Legacies

Because the story ranges over several decades, the reader considers the tenacity of all these varied motivations. Parallels between the two families' situations are clearly drawn. Juvencio feels the pull of duty to his father, but he can also empathize with the fatherless upbringing of the colonel, of which his own father had been the sole cause. Paradoxically, it is that empathy that eats into his feelings for his father, as he can easily imagine what his own children might experience if they were left fatherless.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 346

This work is from Juan Rulfo’s 1950’s collection of short stories El llano en llamas, which presents scenes from life in rural Jalisco, Rulfo’s native region of Mexico. The collection has been translated by George D. Schade as The Burning Plain (1967). Many of its stories, like this one, involve family relationships in difficult situations. Rulfo himself was an orphan; his father was killed in the long years of the cristero revolts during the time of the Mexican Revolution and his mother died several...

(The entire section contains 676 words.)

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