Rising from his peasant origins, Federico Robles subscribes to the myth of bourgeois stability and eventually makes his way to the top of a powerful financial empire in Mexico City. He creates this empire in the years immediately following the Mexican revolution. In an act of rebellion against his mestizo heritage, Robles marries a green-eyed woman named Norma Laragoiti, a self-absorbed materialist. During his marriage to Norma, Robles takes as his mistress the blind mestizo woman Hortensia Chacón, who abandons her petty functionary husband. With Hortensia, Robles is able to find true love and happiness.
During one of the many intensely emotional battles between Norma and Robles, Norma accidentally burns to death in the Robles mansion. The fire begins when Robles rushes downstairs from his wife’s bedroom after she refuses to give him her jewels to sell. He needs the money because his financial empire is crumbling. Robles loses all his money and worldly possessions and returns to his peasant origins. He moves to a farm in the north of Mexico, where he lives with Hortensia and their son.
The writer Rodrigo Pola is on the opposite side of the social spectrum from Robles. Their sharing of Norma (whom Pola loved) underscores their parallel and contrasting movements in the novel. Pola is transformed from an aspiring poet to a successful screenwriter. Artistically, Pola experiences a rise in terms of worldly success that is a fall in terms of...
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