Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Point of view
 The time element
 Methods of communication
 Biographical sketch

Title: Narrative techniques in the short stories of Juan Rulfo
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097574/00001
 Material Information
Title: Narrative techniques in the short stories of Juan Rulfo
Physical Description: vii, 146 leaves. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Deveny, John Joseph, 1944-
Publication Date: 1973
Copyright Date: 1973
Subject: Spanish thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Spanish -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 144-145.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00097574
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000582358
oclc - 14102123
notis - ADB0732


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page i-a
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Table of Contents
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Point of view
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
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        Page 39
        Page 40
    The time element
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
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        Page 68
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        Page 72
        Page 73
    Methods of communication
        Page 74
        Page 75
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        Page 78
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        Page 144
        Page 145
    Biographical sketch
        Page 146
        Page 147
Full Text






3 l I II lllll I 1262 0866666 0
3 1262 08666 466 0

Copyright by
John Joseph Deveny, Jr.


The author wishes to express his gratitude to the members of his

committee, Dr. I. R. Wershow, Dr. Alfred Hower, and Dr. J. J. Allen,

for their careful guidance and their many helpful suggestions. Without

their thoughtful advice, this dissertation could never have been


The Fondo de Cultura Economica has given permission to quote from

El llano en llamas by Juan Rulfo, and Hugo Rodr{guez-Alcala has author-

- ized quotations from his book El arte de Juan Rulfo.



ABSTRACT . . . . .










V. SETTING . . .


















. . . . .

. . . . . .

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



John Joseph Deveny, Jr.

March, 1973

Chairman: Professor Irving R. Wershow
Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures

The purpose of this dissertation is to show that the disori-

entation and confusion which the reader experiences when he reads the

short stories of Juan Rulfo are the result of Rulfo's manipulation of

four technical elements. One chapter is devoted to each of these, and

one chapter each to the introduction and conclusion.

The first chapter briefly recounts the high points of Rulfo's

life. It also examines briefly the major criticism which is relevant

to the topic under study, as well as delimiting the twenty stories to

be studied. These are, besides the fifteen published as El llano en

llamas, five sueltos: "Un cuento," "El dia del derrumbe," "La

herencia de Matilde Arcangel," "Un pedazo de noche," and "La vida no

es muy seria en sus cosas."

The second chapter presents a study of Rulfo's use of point of

view. It is shown that the basic characteristic which can be ascribed

to point of view in these stories is instability. It changes frequently

and often subtly. Rarely is a story told from just one point of view,

although one can find frequent statements to the contrary among

Rulfian critics.

Chapter III deals with the time element. Three general time-

categories are established, and the stories are classified within

them. The category with the fewest stories in it consists of those

stories in which time flows at uneven speeds. The next largest cate-

gory consists of stories which are atemporal, and the largest consists

of stories in which there is a partial suspension of time. This group

is seen as having two types of stories within it: those in which time

exists on dual levels, and those in which it exists just on one level.

The idea that time is suspended in all of Rulfo's stories, common in

Rulfian criticism, is rejected.

Chapter IV deals with the way in which the reader receives the

facts of the story. The author's manipulation of these varies from

completely withholding them, to forcing the reader to deduce them from

the story, to introducing them unexpectedly. It is shown that the

difficulty which the reader experiences in establishing and ordering

the central facts of the narrative derives from the way in which the

author introduces them.

The fifth chapter considers the setting in two very general cate-

gories. The first category includes settings which are characterized

as skeletal. This type of setting is suggested by giving several of

its elements without any details. A typical device in the creation of

this type of setting is the use of unmodified nouns, such as el corral

or una silla.

The second category includes settings which are more completely

described but which are composed of elements of nebulosity, such as

fog, smoke, haze, or dust, and which tend to shroud the physical sur-

roundings from the reader's view. It is observed that about half of

the stories belong in the first category of setting, and half have

settings which are from both categories.

Chapter VI concludes that the complexity with which Rulfo tells

"his stories is masked behind their apparent simplicity. The satis-

faction which the reader receives from these stories depends largely

upon his willingness to work with them in order to appreciate Rulfo's

creative ability.



A brief biographic sketch of Juan Rulfo will provide an inter-

esting preliminary to the study of his short stories, and may help

provide insight into the nature of his literary creation.

Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Perez Rulfo Vizcalno was born in 1918

in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, the son of Juan Nepomuceno Perez

Rulfo and Maria Vizcaino Arias. His use of the surname Rulfo can be

attributed to his interest in family history,l which has led him to

discover that Juan del Rulfo, an eighteenth-century Spanish adventurer,

was probably his first ancestor in the New World.2

When he was just a small child, the Cristero war left Rulfo an

orphan, so he went to live with his grandparents. Under the direction

of French nuns, he progressed smoothly through grammar school, but

just as he entered high school a disruptive student strike caused him

to move to Mexico City at the age of fifteen. After finishing high

school there, he found a job at the Archivo de la Secretaria de

Gobernacion. This was very fortunate for Rulfo because it was there

that he met a young writer named Efren Hernandez. Not only was Rulfo

able to learn much about writing from Hernandez, but later, when

HernAndez was one of the directors of the literary magazine America,

he helped Rulfo to publish some of his first stories.

In an effort to achieve some measure of financial security, Rulfo

studied accounting, but at the same time managed to attend some

university literature courses.5 He has held numerous jobs, and pre-

sently is employed by the Instituto Indigenista. A reserved, withdrawn

man, Rulfo has frustrated the efforts of many critics to meet with

him and discuss his works. His reticence may reveal a lack of con-

fidence which could explain his relatively meager production to date.

In spite of this lack of production, he stands today as a major

figure in Spanish-American literature and even in world literature, his

works having been translated into numerous languages, including

English. In November, 1970, he was awarded Mexico's Premio Nacional

de Letras, a prize which carries great honorary and monetary signifi-


Rulfo's fame is based principally on his collection of short

stories El llano en llamas (1953) and his short novel Pedro PAramo

(1955). In addition to these, five other stories were published as

sueltos. The first was "La vida no es muy seria in sus cosas,"

published originally in 1942 in an obscure literary magazine, Pan

(Guadalajara). This version is unavailable, but fortunately the story

was later published in America,9 which is the version referred to in

this study. "Un cuento" appeared in Las letras patrias in 1954,10

"La herencia de Matilde Arcangel" was published in Cuadernos medicos

in March, 1955,11 "El dia del derrumbe" came out in Mexico en la

cultural in August of the same year, and "Un pedazo de noche" was

first published in 1959 in the Revista mexicana de literature,13

although it was written in 1940.14

In addition to these works, he is known to have worked on two

other novels. The first of these, El hijo del desconsuelo, was

written about 1937,15 and dealt with life in Mexico City. Rulfo
thought so ill of the work that he destroyed it. He is known to be

working on another novel, La cordillera, which still remains incom-

plete, even though notices of its forthcoming publication can be

traced back to 1965. He has recently announced the forthcoming

publication of a new collection of short stories, Los dias sin


Much of what has been written on Rulfo's stories has dealt with

technique, but only in a general way. Emmanuel Carballo, in an

article entitled "Las letras mexicanas de 1949 a 1954," published in

Ideas de Mexico, states:

Eh El lano en llamas estan ausentes las asperezas
tecnicas, los anacronismos de que se valen cuentistas
de la hora, estando presents, en cambio, las tecnicas
que han orientado la novela y el cuento por nuevas
El mon6logo interior, la simultaneidad de plans,
la.introspeccion, el paso lento, son usados por Rulfo
con notables resultados. Hay cuentos que son un puro
mon6logo; otros.que siendo mon6logos, admiten espora-
dicamente el dialogo, sostenido por la misma persona
que cuenta alternando.con, su memorial que reconstruye
escenas y situaciones; en toda la coleccion se observa
el paso lento, el triunfo de las figures sobre la
trama, del autor sobre el tiempo.18

Carballo has identified and listed some of the basic elements of

Rulfo's narrative technique without attempting to:elaborate on them

or explain them. This is true of most of the articles which deal with

Rulfo's stories.

Among the serious studies of Rulfo's technique, Carlos Blanco

Aguinaga's article "Realidad y estilo de Juan Rulfo" (1955) is the

earliest.19 (A revision of this article appeared in 1969,20 but

the revised edition is essentially the same as the original, with only

a few minor changes.) In his articles, Blanco Aguinaga analyzes

"Luvina," "Diles que no me maten," "Talpa," and the novel Pedro PAramo.

His perceptive analysis of Rulfo's use of repetition to achieve a

suspension of time provides valuable insight into Rulfo's technique.

However, his analysis with regard to "Talpa" has been extended and

clarified by Donald K. Gordon.21 Furthermore, Blanco Aguinaga's
attempt to apply his findings equally to all twenty stories would

seem rather tenuous (see Chapter III).

In 1956, James East Irby presented an M.A. thesis to the Uni-

versidad Nacional Aut6noma de M6xico entitled La influencia de William
Faulkner en cuatro narradores hispanoamericanos. Rulfo is one of

these four narrators, and Irby finds Faulknerian influence in Rulfo's

world view, its reflection in structure, the recalling of incidents of

the past, the frequent use of a witness narrator, and the literary

depiction of the lowest type people of his native area.

Luis Leal published "El cuento de.ambiente: 'Luvinal de Juan Rulfo"

in 1962. This brief article attempts to show that "Luvina" represents

better than any other contemporary Mexican short story, the story of

atmosphere, in which plot, climax, and characters are minimized, and

total importance is given to atmosphere, around which the narration

is organized.24

In an M.A. thesis presented to the Universidad Nacional Autonoma

de Mexico, "Cinco cuentistas mexicanos" (1963), Fareed Ahmed Khan makes

some interesting observations on Rulfo's technique, but does not deal

with all the stories which Rulfo has written. He also tends to include

too many marginal items under technique, such as Rulfo's mexicanidad,

and fails to investigate other essentials with sufficient profundity.25

Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala has dealt with technique in four of Rulfo's

stories in his book El Arte de Juan Rulfo. His chapter on "En la

madrugada" contains an excellent analysis of the time element of the

story and how its use results in confusing the reader. He terms "No

oyes ladrar los perros" Rulfo's most perfect story, and points out its

dramatic and stylistic condensation. Rodriguez-Alcala finds in "Luvina"

an ancestor of Pedro Paramo, and compares the town of Luvina with

Comala, the setting of the novel. He says that the uniqueness of the

longest of Rulfo's stories, "El llano en llamas," resides in the fact

that it is the only one which ends with a basic shift in the character
of the protagonist, and on a note of hope. The only point of dis-

agreement with Rodriguez-Alcala would be in regard to the innocence of

Esteban in "En la madrugada." The omniscient narrator corroborates

Esteban's account of Justo Brambila's death (p. 52), thus removing the

doubt about Esteban's innocence which Rodriguez-Alcala feels.

The critic who has dealt most extensively and intensively with

Rulfo's stories is Donald K. Gordon. His 1967 article "Juan Rulfo:

Cuentista"27 deals with Rulfo as a' story-teller in general, and spe-

cifically with his techniques in "El hombre." Most of this article

was later incorporated into his dissertation "The Short Stories of

Juan Rulfo."28

In his dissertation, Dr. Gordon attempts to show how Rulfo pre-

sents the peasant's miserable life through structure, style, language,

and narrative devices. He organizes his thesis around six modes of

narration which he perceives in the stories: third-person narration,

absolute monologue, monologue with dialogue recalled by the narrator,

dialogue, tri-modal narratives, and stories on different but

simultaneous planes. Although at first this organization would seem

well-devised, a closer inspection reveals numerous flaws in it.

It is unnecessary here to enter into all of the discrepancies in

the classification which Gordon has set up; one example will suffice

to demonstrate the point. He analyzes "No oyes ladrar los perros"

in the chapter entitled "Dialogue." Thus he gives no recognition to

the important part which an omniscient narrator plays in the creation

of atmosphere in the story. It is certainly not a dialogue in the

same sense as "El dia del derrumbe," in which the whole story is an

exchange between two characters without an omniscient author.

Another article of value on technique in Rulfo's stories is

"Yuxtaposicion como tecnica en un cuento de Juan Rulfo: 'Macario'"
by Stephanie M. Robbins.9 The author attempts to show that the

structure of the story is organized according to a series of juxta-

positions which are found both within and outside of the work itself.

Except for the fact that she ignores until the.end of the article

the protagonist's obvious mental derangement, which is basic to under-

standing the story, the article is useful in ordering the chaotic

series of images which constitute the story.

The present study has as its purpose to demonstrate the use of

narrative techniques in the creation of reader disorientation in

Rulfo's stories. Although Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala has already touched

upon this point in his analysis of "En la madrugada" when he affirms

that ambiguity and borrosidad are the essential notes of Rulfo's

narrative style,3 he does not categorize and analyze the specific

elements which produce these effects. This dissertation will attempt

to show that narrative techniques in the areas of point of view, the

time element, methods of communication, and the creation of setting

result in leaving the reader with the feeling that what he has read

is illusory, deceptive, ambiguous, blurred.

Any study demands that the material in question be carefully

delimited. In the case of Juan Rulfo's short stories, the only one

which may need a special explanation of why it is included among the

body of material to be studied is "Un cuento." This story was origi-

nally published as a fragment of the novel Una estrella junto a la

luna (eventually published as Pedro Paramo) and does in fact bear a

remarkable resemblance to the first section of the novel. Thus the

question which must be considered is whether or not "Un cuento"

represents a truly autonomous work or is merely a preliminary draft

of a part of Pedro Paramo.

Donald K. Gordon has dealt very well with the problem in his

dissertation. He systematically analyzes textual differences

between "Un cuento" and Pedro Paramo, pointing out changes from one to

the other which reveal an accommodation to the requisites of each

genre. He also states that "the short story's overriding importance

is in its totality as the seed of germination for the novel" (p. 151).

He nevertheless comments on and considers the story as an entity

itself, a position which, on the basis of his deft analysis, leaves

no room for disagreement.

We shall begin our study with a consideration of Rulfo's use of

point of view. A story must always be told by someone, and the re-

lation of the teller to the story can have a major impact on the

reader's reaction to the story. The narrator links the reader with

the story, so we will begin by studying this link. We shall then

proceed to examine the time element. Always a complexity, Rulfo's

depiction of time forces the reader to be constantly alert for an

unexpected interpretation of temporal reality. Following this section

comes a consideration of the way in which the information of the

story is furnished to the reader, and the way in which the reader

becomes disoriented through Rulfo's manipulation of this information.

Finally, a look at the settings of the stories is an essential part

of the study.

An alternative approach to this study would be to deal with each

story as a unit, examining each of the four basic technical elements

that Rulfo uses to achieve reader disorientation. The advantage of

such an approach is that the unity of the individual stories would

suffer less damage than it suffers in the present study. Such an

approach, however, offers certain obstacles and for that reason

was rejected as a.method for purposes of this dissertation.

The first disadvantage of such an approach is that it offers

no logical, convenient principle of organization. We have already

noted that Donald K. Gordon, in his dissertation, tries to organize

the stories according to narrative mode. However, this type of

organization is less than satisfactory due to Rulfo's frequent mixing

of mode within a story. Such an approach is probably better adapted

to articles on a given story or stories.

Another and perhaps more significant disadvantage of that approach

is that one can easily lose sight of the technique itself while

becoming absorbed in its application in a story. This type of

approach is, again, better adapted to a study whose purpose is to


explicate a single story or a small group of stories, rather than

to a study which encompasses them all.

A final observation, on the division of the stories into parts:

most of the stories have formal divisions between their parts. The

following stories do not: "Macario," "Nos han dado la tierra,"

"Es que somos muy pobres," "Acuerdate," "La herencia de Matilde

ArcAngel," "La vida no es muy seria en sus cosas," and "El dia del

derrumbe." In the comments on these stories, references to the

various parts are accompanied by the appropriate explanation of the

points of division.


Luis Harss and Barbara Dohmann, Into the Mainstream: Conversa-
tions with Latin-American .Writers (New York: Harper and Row, 1967),
p. 250.

2Maria Teresa G6mez Gleason, "Juan Rulfo y el mundo de su pr6xima
novela La cordillera," ed. Antonio Benitez Rojo, Recopilacion de
textos sobre Juan Rulfo (Havana: Las Americas, 1969), p. 150.

Harss and Dohmann, p. 253.

Boyd G. Carter, Literatura hispanoamericana a traves de sus
revistas (Mexico: Ediciones de Andrea, 1968), pp. 150-151.

Harss and Dohmann, p. 253.

In 1967, the University of Texas Press published George D.
Schade's translation of El llano en llamas with the title The Burning
Plain and Other Stories. Pedro Paramo had been previously published
in 1959 by the Grove Press. It was translated by Lysander Kemp and
published with a subtitle: Pedro Paramo: A novel of Mexico.

Boyd G. Carter, "The Hispanic World," Hispania, 54 (May 1971),
Juan Rulfo, El llano en llamas (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura
Economica, 1953). All quotations in this study refer to the ninth
edition .(Colecci6n Popular), 1969.

9America.'Revista mensual. Tribuna de la democracia, No. 40
(30 June 1945), pp. 35-36. All references to this story in the present
dissertation refer to the edition indicated.

1Las letras patrias, No. 1 (January-May 1954), pp. 104-108. All
references to this story in the present dissertation refer to the
edition indicated.

1Cuadernos medicos, 1 No. 5 (March 1955), 57-61. All references
to this story in the present dissertation refer to the edition indi-

12Mxico en la cultural, No. 334 (14 August 1955), pp. 3,5. All
references to this story in the present dissertation refer to the
edition indicated.

13Revista mexicana de literature, No. 3 (September 1959), PP. 7-
14. All references to this story in the present dissertation refer to
the edition indicated.

14Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," Diss.
University of Toronto, 1970, p. 21.

15Hugo RodriguezAlcala, El arte de Juan Rulfo: Historias de
vivos y difuntos (Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1965)
p. 51.

6Harss and Dohmann, p. 256.

7Ivan Restrepo-Fernandez, "La caceria de Juan Rulfo," Mundo
nuevo, 39-40, 43-44.

18Emmanuel Carballo, "Las letras mexicanas de 1949 a 1954,"
Ideas de Mexico, 2 (September-December 1954), 6.
19 t
19Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, "Realidad y estilo de Juan Rulfo,"
Revista mexicana de literature, No. 1 (September-October 1955),
pp. 59-86.

20Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, "Realidad y estilo de Juan Rulfo,"
ed. Jorge Laforgue, Nueva novela latinoamericana I (Buenos Aires:
Editorial Paid6s, 1969), pp. 85-113.
21Donald K. Gordon, p. 39.

22Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, "Realidad y estilo de Juan Rulfo,"
Revista mexicana de literature, No. 1 (September-October 1955),
pp. 59-86. All subsequent references to Blanco Aguinaga's article
refer to the original article, not the revision.

23James East Irby, La influencia de William Faulkner en cuatro
narradores hispanoamericanos (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma,
1956), pp. 132-163.
2Luis Leal, "El cuento de ambiente: 'Luvina' de.Juan Rulfo,"
Nivel, No. 38 (25 February 1962), p. 4.

25Fareed Ahmed Khan, "Cinco cuentistas modernos," Unpublished
M.A. thesis Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico 1963, pp. 97-122.

2Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala, pp. 13-88.

27Donald K. Gordon, "Juan Rulfo: Cuentista," Cuadernos
americanos, 155, No. 6 (November-December 1967), 198-205.
28See note 14.
See note 14.


29Stephanie M. Robbins, "Yuxtaposici6n como tecnica en un cuento
de Juan Rulfo: 'Macario'," Insula, No. 286 (September 1970), p. 10

30Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala, p. 23

3See note 10.

32See pp. 141-152 of Gordon's dissertation.



While it is true, as critics frequently state, that Rulfo often

employs the first-person point of view in his short stories, such an

affirmation fails to give an accurate picture of the full use which he

makes of this element of technique. Point of view in Rulfo is

basically unstable, and this instability is what produces the effect of

misleading and confusing the reader. It often changes from one person

to another, or what is at first the apparent point of view turns out to

be merely an illusion. Other times there is no identifiable point of

view at all. It is these techniques which we will examine in this

chapter, .indicating their effect upon the reader.

In the first section, we shall examine those stories in which the

establishment of point of view presents a particular problem. It is

typical of Rulfo that he likes to postpone, for as long as possible,

allowing the reader to know precisely what he is doing with his

narration. He does this in the second part of fEl hombre." The first

part of the story ends with third-person narration, The second part

then begins with a first-person narrator, a shepherd. The only hint

of a change which the reader gets is a blank space between paragraphs,

whicn he does not know how to interpret. Further, the change in point

of view is not evident until the second paragraph:

Parecia venir huyendo. Trala una porcion de
lodo en las zancas, que ya ni se sabia cu'l era el
color de sus pantalones.
Lo vi desde que se zambull6 en el rio. .. .(p.43)

The sudden revelation of point of view forces the reader to stop

and re-evaluate what he has just read. When did the narrator change?

Who is the new narrator? What is happening?

The first of these questions is now easy to answer, due to the

blank between paragraphs. A re-reading may also reveal subtle hints

in the use of venir rather than ir, and traia rather than tenia or


The answers to the other two questions are not so obvious, and

are revealed slowly throughout the narration of the second part.

"La information proporcionada por el pastor respect al difunto sirve

para precisar, en esta segunda parte del cuento, asuntos suscitados
en la primera."l

A very different process is used in "El llano en llamas." In this

story, the point of view is established almost immediately:

"IViva Petronilo Flores!"
El grito se vino rebotando por los paredones
de la barranca y subio hasta donde estabamos
nosotros. . (p. 66)

The author now proceeds to disguise the point of view throughout most

of the rest of the narrative, using three basic elements.

The first of these is plural rather than singular number, which

is used almost exclusively until the last part of the story (pp. 82-

84). Because of its vagueness, the nosotros increases the aesthetic

distance between the reader and the story. Having accomplished this

necessary step from the start, Rulfo then uses many long passages

which make no references to the narrator himself, such as on p. 68

where he allows twenty-one lines to intervene between references to

nosotros, always substituting such constructions as se oyo for olmos

or se veia for velamos. Finally, because of the strong emphasis in

this story on external action, the reader tends to concentrate on this

aspect. Thus it is easy for him to be distracted from the true point

of view.

Rulfo himself recognizes this distraction and resultant confusion

in point of view when he allows the first-person narrator apparently to

enter the minds of his companions:

"Se lo han de haber llevado pensamos-
Se lo han de haber lievado para ensenarselo al
gobierno.. .. ." (p. 71)

The question of true versus apparent point of view is especially

visible in "Luvina." The story starts, as do many stories, with a

description. Rulfo is "el narrador aparente de la historic." The

second paragraph continues the description, but it starts with an

ellipsis which causes the reader some puzzlement. Shortly, however,

we read: ". .. yo lo inico que vi subir fue el viento .. ." (p. 94).

We now realize that what seemed to be authorial description was not

that at all, but rather the voice of some character in the story.

"En efecto, nadie describe: alguien habla."

Besides this narrator, there is also a third-person narrator who

enters and exits.. This narrator can hardly be called omniscient,

since he seems to have access to very little information of the type

one would expect from an omniscient narrator. His role is more analo-

gous to that of the playwright: he provides stage directions. This

type of narrator is discussed later in this chapter.

"La herencia de Matilde ArcAngel" starts with a similar illusion.

We have what could typically be third-person narration, without even a

hint that such is not the case. However, in the third paragraph we

read: "Quien mas lo aborrec{a era su padre, por mas cierto mi

compare, porque yo le bautic6 al muchacho" (p. 57). The reader has

again been misled by the author, and must now re-evaluate the re-

lationship which he has started to organize in his mind, taking into

account the new data which he has just received.

We will now examine the role of the omniscient narrator in Rulfo's

stories. As Donald K. Gordon has pointed out, "La vida no es muy seria

en sus cosas" is the only story in which a third-person narrator is

used exclusively. However, the omniscience of the narrator in this

story is subject to question. The story is written in the third

person, but the omniscience of the narrator is impure. Already in

this story, which Rulfo considers his first (he published this one

first, even though "Un.pedazo de noche" was written several years

earlier), the omniscient narrator has started a Rulfian metamorphosis,

which is even more evident in some of his later stories.

The process which Robert Humphrey has called indirect interior

monologue was used by Rulfo in this story, as well as in others, On

the basis of Mis analysis of various modern novels, Humphrey describes

the technique thus:

Indirect interior monologue is . that type
of interior monologue in which an omniscient author
presents unspoken material as if it were directly from

the consciousness of a character and . guides
the reader through it. It differs from direct
interior monologue basically in that the author
intervenes between, the character's psyche and
the reader.
In practice, indirect interior monologue
is usually combined with another of the techniques
of stream of consciousness--especially with the
description of consciousness.7

In "La vida no es muy seria en sus cosas," the indirect interior

monologue is not in fact mixed with other stream of consciousness

techniques. It makes a fleeting appearance, but it is a beginning,

and Rulfo uses the technique more extensively in other stories,

especially in "iDiles que no me matenl" The passage rather sneaks

up on the reader, as Rulfo is narrating how the mother gets ready to

go out, but then decides to return for a coat: "Entonces regres6 por

un abrigo Ipues que pasaria si 41 sintiera frfo? Lo busco entire las

ropas de la cama . ." (p. 36).

There is another instance in the same story where the indirect

interior monologue seems to be used but is not. This illusion is

caused by the irregular punctuation of the passages which reveal con-

ventional authorial description:

Acaso sufra, se decia. Acaso se este ahogando ahi
adentro, sin aire; o tal vez tenga miedo de la
obscuridad. Todos los ninos se asustan cuando
estan a obscuras. Todos. Y 61 tambien. IPor que
no se iba a asustar 1l? iAhl si estuviera aca
afuera, yo sabria defenderlo; o, al menos, veria si
su carita se ponia palida o si sus ojos se hacian
tristes. Entonces yo sabria como hacer. Pero
ahora, no; no donde e1 esta. Ahi no. Eso se
decia (pp. 35-36).

It can be seen from this passage that the proximity between this

and true indirect interior monologue is great. Only a slight refine-

ment of technique is needed to produce the process in its pure form.

The omniscient narrator in "El hombre" also exhibits a compromise.

The narrator's description of the hombre's crime shows a confusion on

the part of the omniscient narrator:

Y comenzo su area. Cuando lleg6 al tercero,
le salian chorretes de lagrimas. 0 tal vez era
sudor. (p. 39)

If the narrator cannot definitely distinguish, even though the reader

expects him to have knowledge of this type of information, then the

reader cannot help getting a feeling of uncertainty regarding the facts

of the story.

Donald K. Gordon classifies "El hombre" as a story which moves on

different but simultaneous planes. In the first part one time level

corresponds to the perceptions of the pursued, the other to the per-

ceptions of the pursuer.9 Although the author has organized Part I

of the story omnisciently, the characters themselves reveal their own

psychology, 0 as is typical of many of Rulfo's characters, Even though

the role of the omniscient narrator is thus greatly reduced, he still

has four important functions.

The first of these is that the omniscient narrator unites the

different time levels, among which he does not differentiate. The

result is that the reader then is easily misled regarding the sequence

of events and who takes part in them.

Secondly, the omniscient narrator serves to describe the setting

in which the story takes place, the most important element of which is

the river. As will be seen in Chapter IV, rivers frequently accompany

scenes of death in Rulfo.

Third, the omniscient narrator serves to identify the two charac-

ters and moves them spatially, a function which gradually is suppressed

as the story develops since, as the reader knows more about the two

characters, he can identify them himself on the basis of content, and

no longer needs to have the identification expressly made for him.

It should be noted that as the role of the omniscient narrator

contracts, the reader is forced into greater mental effort to keep

from becoming confused.

Finally, the omniscient author presents to the reader an indirect

interior monologue of the pursuer. It is very short and is presented

in such a way that its intrusion is scarcely noticeable. It represents

a transition from omniscient authorial narration, which preceded it,

to the character's direct monologue, which follows it.

IPor que habria dicho aquello? Ahora su
hijo se estaria burlando de el. 0 tal vez
no . . (p. 41)

The monologue of the pursuer, which follows this indirect in-

terior monologue, reveals important details of the story to the reader.

In typical Rulfian manner, these details are revealed through the

character himself, and the indirect interior monologue provides a

means for the author to make the necessary transition from omniscient

narration to character narration.

"En la madrugada" is likewise dominated by omniscient narration.

The atmosphere of borrosidad and the multiple-focus techniques so

well discussed by Rodriguez-Alcala are functions of the omniscient

An important aspect related to the third-person narration in this

story is the limiting of omniscience which we have already seen in

"La vida no es muy seria en sus cosas." On p. 49 we read: "No se

sabe si las golondrinas vienen de Jiquilpan o salen de San

Gabriel . ." Later, after the fight between Esteban and Justo

Brambila, Esteban regains consciousness.

No se supo como abrio la puerta y se echo a
la calle. No se supo como llego a su casa . .
(p. 52)

These passages, and especially the second one, aid in the creation

of a feeling of uncertainty in the reader by blocking out basic facts.

Donald K. Gordon classifies "IDiles que no me maten!"

as a tri-modal narrative, in which monologue, dialogue, and authorial

narration are mixed.1 He notes "the author's psychological entry

into Juvencio's mind" and states that "what Rulfo accomplishes is more

than mere narrative description: it is as if Juvencio were himself

describing in the third-person what had happened to him. The result is

not the objectivity normally associated with third-person narration,

but an intensification of Juvencio's own quandary wherein he seems in

a dream."1

The process to which Gordon refers here is indistinguishable from

Humphrey's indirect interior monologue, which is treated with "La

vida no es muy seria en sus cosas" and "El hombre." While it is true,

as Gordon states, that Rulfo uses this technique successfully in

"IDiles que no me maten!," it needs to be noted that mixed with para-

graphs where indirect interior monologue is used are paragraphs of

conventional third-person omniscient narration. Owing to the similarity

of such techniques, the change from one to the other is extremely

subtle, resulting in more or less uncertainty on the reader's part,

as to which process is taking place, and thus requiring greater

alertness on the part of the reader in order to be sure of what is

going on. At times the reader feels that the story is ambiguous due

to the difficulty of separating one process from the other.

As has previously been noted, the role of the omniscient narrator

in "Luvina" is analogous to that of the playwright. This is, of
course, a function of the long dialogue or semi-dialogue which

comprises most of the body of the story. He sets the stage, which is
of extreme importance in this story of ambiente:

Alla afuera segula oyendose el batallar del
rio. El rumor del aire. Los ninos jugando.
Parecia ser aun temprano, en la noche. (p. 97)

He also directs the characters about the stage;

S. Eso hizo que el hombre se levantara, fuera
hacia la puerta y les dijera. . .
Luego, dirigiendose otra vez a la mesa,
se sent6 y dijo: . . (p. 96)

He does not tell the story. As frequently happens in Rilfo's

stories, the characters themselves tell their own stories. The author

makes quick appearances as narrator and then leaves.

The omniscient narrator has a much more prominent role in "La

noche que lo dejaron solo." He is the nearly constant intermediary

between reader and story, thus putting greater aesthetic distance

between reader and character. In this way, the author is also able

to narrate the actions of the protagonist while the latter is in a

state of semi-consciousness. Both of these facts are significant in

creating a feeling of borrosidad in the reader. Further, there is an

absolute minimum of descriptive passages in this story; the narrator

presents action almost exclusively. The preponderance of action with

no background against which it is taking place likewise creates in the

reader a feeling of incompleteness, borrosidad, blur.

Indirect interior monologue has a small but important role in this

story. Again, its..appearance and disappearance are so subtle that it

is scarcely noticeable, although the reader realizes that he is

gradually being led into the mind of the character and then back out:

Habia que "encumbrar, rodear la meseta
y luego bajar." Eso estaba haciendo. Obre
Dios. Estaba haciendo lo que le dijeron que
hiciera, aunque no a las mismas horas. (p. 107)

The quotation marks surround the directions which were apparently

previously discussed by his uncles. He is remembering them here.

The point of most direct contact with the character's mind occurs with

the obre Dios, after which the indirect interior monologue ceases.

The role of authorial omniscience is again reduced in "No oyes

ladrar los perros," and the characters themselves move the story

forward, at first through dialogue, and later through monologues. The

author provides background, the most salient and permanent feature of

which is the moon. He further moves the characters along their

journey and tells what they are doing as they go. The shadowy atmos-

phere which accompanies this story can be clearly seen from the

following passages:

Alli estaba la luna. Enfrente de ellos. Una
grande y colorada que les llenaba de luz los
ojos y que estiraba y oscurecia mas su sombra
sobre la tierra. (p. 115)

The role of the omniscient narrator in "Paso del Norte" is the

smallest one of such roles in all the stories in which Rulfo makes

use of authorial narration. Nevertheless, the brief appearance of an

omniscient narrator has an important role in the story. It occurs

right at the start of Part II, and is a sudden change in mode, since

Part I was a dialogue, and Part II immediately goes back to dialogue.

De los ranchos bajaba la gente a los pueblos;
la gente de los pueblos se iba a las ciudades. En
las ciudades la gente se perdia; se disolvia entire
la gente. "t.No sabe onde me darn trabajo?"
"Si, vete a Ciuda Juarez . ." (p. 122)

The entrance and exit of the omniscient narrator is so subtle that

it almost goes undetected. The rest of the story is a dialogue, in

which Rulfo imitates the local dialect of the campesinos. The

omniscient narrator uses standard Spanish, otherwise he would be

indistinguishable from the rest of the dialogue which starts again at

the quotation marks.

The function of the omniscient narrator is to disorient the

reader and make impossible the positive identification of characters

in Part II. In Part I, character identification is no problem, since

the whole of Part I is a dialogue with only two characters. The

introduction of the omniscient narrator and la gente makes it

impossible to know who the interlocutors are in the rest of Part II.

The reader may assume that the son is one of them, but he cannot be

sure. It could just as well be some of la gente referred to by the

omniscient narrator. This confusion is continued when, in Part III,

the son reveals that he made the trip north with his friend

Estanislado, who is not previously mentioned.

All of the stories which involve third-person narration, with

the exception of "La vida no es muy seria en sus cosas," also involve

switching from that to another point of view. Although no such change

actually occurs in "La vida no es muy seria en sus cosas," the use of

indirect interior monologue is an attempt to alter the role of the

omniscient narrator. In the others, changes occur from omniscience to

character narration, often a monologue or a dialogue.

In "El hombre," the omniscient narrator of Part I gives way to a

witness narrator in Part II. His narrative could be classed as

monologue but it must be noted that it is a monologue which is actually

half of a dialogue, that is, a semi-dialogue. (See note 17.) This

fact is not evident at first, but when the narrator says, "Pero no soy

adivino, senor licenciado" (p, 44) we see from the direct address that

we are receiving only one part of the conversation, as Gordon notes:

La tecnica de Rulfo aqui es magnffica.
El pastor habla sin interrupcion, y sin
embargo, a traves de sus palabras nos hace sentir
la presencia del licenciado, y comprender su
papel conversacional. "&Dice usted que mato a
todita la familiar de los Urquidi?" (45), "iY
dice usted que me va a meter en la carcel por
esconder a ese individuo?" La primer nos da
a conocer el nombre del perseguidor--de un
modo tan incidental como llegamos a conocer el
nombre del hombre (41), y la segunda subraya
la injusticia a ue pueden quedar sujetos los
humildes pobres.6

The witness narrator serves two functions. First, he permits the

reader to see the hombre in a different light. In Part I, the om-

niscient narrator concentrated on presenting the characters only in

their relation to one another and to the crime which was committed.

In Part II the hombre is seen in a more human light: "El solo me pedia

de comer y me platicaba de sus muchachos, chorreando lagrimas"(p. 46).

This is a result of the fact that the new narrator knows nothing of the

man's background, and thus does not judge him, but rather takes pity

on him.

Secondly, the witness narrator provides a means of telling the

outcome of the hunt in Part I, which is more in keeping with the

Rulfian technique. The narrator tells the licenciado that he found the

man face-down in the river with "la nuca repleta de agujeros" (p. 47).

In this way the reader comes to realize the outcome of the hunt,

because earlier in the story the pursuer has threatened to shoot the

hunted in the neck. It is typical of Rulfo that he omits actual events

such as this, preferring to allude to them.17 Also, events of the

story are usually presented through the characters, rather than

directly by the author, but to do so coherently in Part I would have

been difficult, due to the hallucinatory state in which the characters
are found.8

The unexpected change of the point of view from Part I to Part II

forces the reader into careful evaluation of all the information he

receives in Part II, and to relate it carefully with the facts he has

received in Part I in order to establish in his mind the relationship

between the two. Also, the fact that the new narrator is an entirely

new character, unrelated in any way with the ones previously introduced,

tends to add to the feeling of disorientation in the reader. This is

especially important as the new narrator gives out information which

was withheld in Part I, such as the name of the family which was

assassinated. The high point of this part, after which there can remain

no doubt that the narration deals with the hombre, is the passage men-

tioned above in which the shepherd tells how the man in the river died.

Narrator changes in "En la madrugada" are constant. Hugo

Rodriguez-AlcalA describes the situation in this way:

El cuento tiene dos narradores: el escritor
y el protagonista. El primero se coloca en
diferentes lugares para contarnos los episodios
diversos: frente al paisaje de San Gabriel, en
el corral de Brambila, en la pieza de Margarita,
en el rancho de Esteban. El segundo recuerda
desde la carcel en soliloquios que se fnterrumpen
por la intervenci6n del otro narrador. 9

The first such change occurs between Parts II and III. Rulfo

spends the first two parts setting the stage and introducing Esteban

and his cows. The reader may now logically expect the next step to be

the start of the action. What he finds, however, is a monologue of a

nameless character, who he soon realizes is Esteban.

Although the narrator has changed, the thread of the narrative

remains intact. Esteban continues the narration as a memory, which

therefore means that the perspective from which the narrator views

the story has changed. The omniscient narrator narrated the story

as it unfolded; from Esteban's point of view, it is over, and he is

narrating accomplished facts. In the middle of Part III (p. 50) the

omniscient narrator again takes over, and the reader is jolted back

to the original conditions under which the story was being told.

Between Parts III and IV (p. 50) a change back to Esteban as

narrator again takes place, forcing the reader into a certain mental

alertness in order to follow what is taking place, due to the change

in the perspective from which the action is viewed.

The transition from Part III to Part IV is especially interesting:

. Y le dio de patadas cuando vio que mamaba
de las cuatro tetas. "Te rompere las jetas,
hijo de res."

"Y le hubiera roto el hocico si no hubiera
surgido por alli el patron don Justo. .. ."
(p. 50)

At the end of Part III, we hear Esteban's voice, but within the frame-

work of omniscient narration. Part IV starts immediately at that

point, and again with Esteban's voice, but now the omniscient frame

is gone and the perspective from which the action is viewed has


It can be stated unequivocally that Esteban's first monologue is a

true monologue, since there is no indication of any other person being

involved. In his second speech, however, Rulfo again uses the process

used in the second part of "El hombre": he indicates the presence of

an interlocutor who never actually participates actively in the


"'Que paso luego? Yo no lo supe. No volvi
a trabajar con el. Ni yo ni nadie, porque ese
mismo dia se murio. No lo sabia usted? .. ."
(p. 5o)

As Part V starts, and the omniscient author again takes over the

narration, the reader sees that the progression of the narrative has

been broken and time jumps backward. The events which have just been

narrated are now re-told from a different angle, a technique which

Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala calls "la tecnica de enfoques repetidos."20

The omniscient narrator moves the story forward in sequence from the

starting point until Part VII, where a semi-dialogue, with Esteban

speaking, takes over.

Rather than continue the narration from the end of Part VI from

a different perspective, Esteban reviews and comments upon the events

of the story, whose development ended at the end of Part V. The use

of the monologues or semi-dialogues of Esteban, and especially the last

two (in which he mentions that he is in jail) is the means by which

Rulfo extends the time element of the story to undefined length,

although such does not seem to be the case,2 This aspect of "En la

madrugada" will be discussed in Chapter III.

"IDiles que no me matenl" is a story which starts without a

narrator, as a dialogue between a father and his son. Toward the end

of the dialogue an omniscient narrator appears, but his function is

similar to that of the omniscient narrator in "Luvina;" he simply

gives what amount to stage directions for the characters, moving them

about but doing little more than that.

Part II (p. 86) starts with an omniscient narrator who now has an

important role, already discussed. He provides indirect interior

monologue. As Part III ends (p. 87), the indirect interior monologue

also ends, and the omniscient narrator reverts back to the role of

playwright, simply directing the dialogue between don Lupe and


Juvencio Nava starts the narration of Part III, following the

process used in a similar situation in "En la madrugada" (p. 50).

At the end of Part II we hear Juvencio's voice, directed by an om-

niscient author. Then Juvencio takes up Part III, the omniscient

author having disappeared, and continues the events of the narrative

in sequence. He narrates looking back at the events, rather than as

they happen.

Ahi se lo haiga si me los mata.

"Y me mato un novillo." (p. 87)

The problem of identifying whose monologue this is, is solved by

the smooth transition here. The identification is actually made by

the omniscient narrator of Part II. The problem which this passage

does present is that of determining when Juvencio says it, in order to

determine the perspective from which he is viewing the action, and to

determine how this passage fits into the one which immediately

follows it.

After careful analysis, it would appear that the monologue and

the indirect interior monologue which follows it are made in sequence,

since there is no break or other device used to indicate a separation.

It is not possible to determine to whom he delivers this monologue,

nor is it necessary. The monologue's purpose is to inform the reader

of Juvencio's life up to the present. It represents a break in the

chronological order of events, although this fact is not clear,

because the time when he speaks the monologue is not fixed until two

pages after it begins, where we read:

Camino entire aquellos hombres en silencio,
con los brazos caldos. (p. 89)

Thus the monologue and the interior direct monologue take place while

Juvencio is walking with his captors to meet the colonel. By using

direct monologue to start the time sequence and switching later to

third-person narration, Rulfo is able to attenuate the author's part,

which would, if there, make it easier to establish the sequence than

is the case by postponing authorial narration.

In Part IV, the omniscient narrator assumes a new role. This part

contains mostly dialogue, with the narrator interrupting occasionally

as guide. Into this guidance, Rulfo skillfully weaves terms of

distance which are not usually associated with third-person omniscient

narration, thus making the reader feel that he is an on-the-scene

witness to the action: "Desde aca, desde afuera, se oyo bien claro

cuanto dijo" (p. 92). Normally the desde aca, would come from a

character-narrator placing himself in a position of proximity to the

dialogue. However, since here we have an omniscient narrator, the

effect is to pull the reader into the story and make him seem a wit-


This illusion is continued into Part V, where the omniscient

narrator has a larger role than that of simply dialogue guider:

Ahora, por fin, se habia apaciguado.
Estaba alli arrinconado al pie del horcon. Habia
venido su hijo Justino y su hijo Justina se
habia ido y habia vuelto y ahora otra vez
venia. (p.93)

Here, as we have seen before, Rulfo avoids narrating the actual terri-

ble deeds as they happen. Rather, he refers to Juvencio's assassi-

nation after the fact.

Of the stories which are simple monologues, there are several

types. Some involve an audience, at least an implied audience, others

do not. Of the latter type, "Macario" is an outstanding example.

Macario has no listeners to his monologues, except of course

the reader. This is easily accepted due to Macario's nature: he is

a mental deficient, so one does not expect him to act normally. The

fact that he sits alone and talks to no one, perhaps not even himself,

does not seem in the least strange, once the reader realizes his

mental deficiency. Further, he is not really narrating an event, or

series of events. He is, in a way, narrating his whole life, which the

reader must piece together. His is simply a rambling conversation

with himself, whose purpose is to keep him awake so he can kill frogs

and thus not incur the wrath of his stepmother.

"Nos han dado la tierra" presents a very different type of mono-

logue. Here a character-narrator narrates a trek of four men across

the barren plain, and their meeting with the government representative.

The uniqueness of the story springs from the use of the present tense

as a base from which to narrate the action. There is no listener

mentioned or implied. The use of the present tense produces a strange

sensation in the reader, because the narrator-protagonist narrates the

events as they unfold, as if he were an omniscient narrator viewing the

story from without, rather than a participant in the action. The effect

is almost as if one were reading a diary written in the historical

present or a filmed travelogue, rather than a short story.

"La Cuesta de las Comadres" and "Talpa" present another type of

monologue. They are told as a recollection, using past tenses preteritee

and imperfect, especially) as a starting point for the narration. Thus

the events are narrated as being over with, in a way more typical of

monologic narration. What is a puzzlement to the reader is the question

of who the listener is. None is mentioned, nor is any suggested, which

leaves only the reader as listener. This fact in turn raises the

question in "La Cuesta de las Comadres," of why the narrator would

invite someone unknown (the reader) into his home ("Antes, sentado donde

ahora estoy, se vefa claramente Zapotlan." (p. 23) to tell him of such

a heinous deed, one which would seem better kept secret.

In "Talpa," the reader gets the feeling that the narrator speaks

compulsively, as if talking about the crime committed will help take

away the remorse. Nevertheless, the question of who is the listener

adds an element of mystery to the story, which is not fully explained

by Carlos Blanco Aguinaga's statement that Rulfo's characters are

ensimismados and talk just to themselves.22 If such were the case,

one would expect a monologue of less coherence, clarity and length.

As always in Rulfo, such things cannot be known, nor are they meant

to be known.

A hybrid of the above two methods is to be found in the next

story, "Es que somos muy pobres." The participant-narrator puts a

present-tense frame around the events of the story, which are them-

selves narrated as memories, over and done with. The present-tense

narration, at the end, elicits from the reader the same strange

feeling which he gets in "Nos han dado la tierra":

Y Tacha llora al sentir que su vaca ro
volvera porque se la ha matado el rio. Esta
aq i, a mi lado, con su vestido color de rosa,
mirando el rio desde la barraca . Por
su cara corren chorretes de agua sucia . .
Yo la abrazo tratando de consolarla,
pero ella no entiende. Llora con mas ganas . .
(p. 35)

"El llano en llamas" is a monologue in disguise, mostly due to its

extension and its emphasis on external action. The disguise helps the

reader to accept the detailed descriptions of events of the first part

of the story, which are separated from the end of the story by at

least eight years. If it were not for the techniques Rulfo employs

in disguising the narrative point of view, the reader likely would

find it difficult to believe that events of so long ago could be retold

with such seeming precision.

"Acuerdate" is a monologue with a listener implied by the direct

address. We do not feel the presence of the listener as strongly

in this story as in "Luvina" or in "El hombre" (Part II), but we do

know that he is an old friend of the narrator: "T6 te debes acordar

de el, pues fuimos companeros de escuela y lo conociste como yo"

(p. 113). We can also assume that both narrator and listener are

fairly old: "Solo que te falte much la memorial, no te has de acordar

de eso" (p. 112).

Donald K. Gordon calls "Anacleto Morones" a monologue with

dialogue recalled by the narrator.23 It is a curious type of monologue

in which the narrator, Lucas Lucatero, frequently cedes his position as

narrator, to become interlocutor in a dialogue with one of the ten

women who have come to visit him. He speaks with them one at a

time, always introducing them when he changes from one to the other.

Sometimes he, as narrator, manipulates the dialogue:

--No, gracias-dijeron. No venfamos a
molestarte. . (p. 128)

Other times he simply lets the dialogue run without his interference

as narrator:

-1Y que buscan por aqui?
-Venimos a verte.
-Ya me vieron. Estoy bien.
-Te has venido muy lejos. . (p. 129)

Other times we get his thoughts directly: I"Viejas carambas! Haberlo

dicho antes" (p. 134).

The effect of all this is to produce a strange type of monologue

which at times seems not monologue, but dialogue. The reader moves

in and out of Lucas Lucatero's mind according to the latter's posture

with respect to the story. When he is acting as narrator, he inter-

poses himself between the reader and the action, but when he is a

dialogue, the presence of a narrator is not noticed.

"Un cuento" is another monologue which makes heavy, use of

dialogue within the monologic framework. The long dialogues which

move along autonomously (i.e. without constant narrator guidance) on

p. 105 and p. 107, in which the first-person narrator is seen not

as narrator but as interlocutor, tend to attenuate the effect of


Unlike many of Rulfo's monologues, "La herencia de Matilde

Arcangel" is a monologue directed to some specific listeners. In

this sense it bears greater resemblance to the monologues in "Luvina"

than that of Part II of "El hombre" or "Paso del Norte." This is

because the listeners are just that; they are not interlocutors

whose half of the conversation is suppressed, but whose presence is

nevertheless felt.

The first hint that there is an audience to this story comes

on p. 57: "Era un hombron asi de grande . ." This suggests

that the narrator makes a gesture, for the benefit of an audience,

to show them the size of someone. This is reinforced on p. 58:

"Ojala que ninguno de los presents se ofenda por si es de alla; pero

yo sostengo mi juicio." Nevertheless, the reader never gets any

other details about this audience, which he knows to be present.

"Un pedazo de noche" is another monologue which shares certain

characteristics with "Anacleto Morones," in the long, autonomous

dialogues in which the narrator does not make her presence felt.2

This tends to make the story appear not simply a monologue.

A very different process is used on p. 12 of "Un pedazo de noche"

to alter the effect of monologue. The narrator is giving Claudio

Marcos' long monologue on his being a grave digger. In the middle

of it, she intercalates her own thoughts; then she gives the rest of

his monologue: ". . No, no me dan pena los muertos, y much menos

los vivos" (p. 12). Because this second section of his speech starts

with leaders, the reader gets the feeling that it has been going on

while she is giving her thoughts. Since she is the narrator, this is

not possible, and the normal process of monologic narration is thereby

transformed to disorient the reader.

At one point, the reader gets the feeling that the story is being

told to someone, using a process similar to that of the second part of

"El hombre:"

. El se llamabaClaudio Marcos. No, el nino no era
suyo. Era de un compare. Nomas que 1e se habia a-
comedido a cuidarlo porque hoy la estaba celebran-
do. Bueno, todos los dias se las colocaba, pero nunca
se habia puesto tan necio como ahora.' (p. 9)

The interlocutor whose presence is apparent here is not mentioned


Dialogue is sometimes an important ingredient in Rulfo's stories.

These dialogues are basically of two types: those in which there is

a narrator who interposes himself between the dialogue and the reader,

and those in which the dialogue goes directly to the reader without

the guidance of a narrator, either omniscient or otherwise.

"Paso del Norte" is almost a pure dialogue. The one-line role

of the omniscient narrator in this story has previously been discussed.

We will now examine the element of dialogue.

In the first and last parts of the story we have a dialogue

between father and son. We know this because in each case, in the

first line of the dialogue, the first speaker addresses the other as

padre. The father has a part which is somewhat unusual for an inter-

locutor in a Rulfian dialogue: he is used to develop the action of

the story by asking his son a series of questions which extract vital

information from the son.

The reader may become confused in Parts II and III due to the

son's switching from one unidentified interlocutor to another and then

back again to the first one. This feeling is enhanced by contrast

with Parts I and IV, where identification of the interlocutors is

automatic. The part which the omniscient narrator plays in this has

'been previously discussed. A further enhancement of this disoriented

feeling comes in Part III where there again appears a dialogue which

is partially suppressed:

-Esta bien. Te voy a dar un papelito pa
nuestro amigo de Ciuda Juarez. No lo pierdas.
El te pasara la fronterq.y de ventaja llevas
hasta la contrata. Aqui va el domicilio y el
telefono pa que lo localices mas pronto. No,
no vas a ir a Texas. lHas ofdo hablar de
Oreg6n? Bien, dile a el que quieres ir a
Oreg6n. A cosechar manzanas, eso es, nada
de algodonales. Se ve que tu eres un hombre
listo. Alli te presents con Fernandez. INo
lo conoces? Bueno, preguntas por 61. (p. 123)

"El dia del derrumbe" is a dialogue which at times gives the

appearance of being more of a monologue. There are two interlocutors

involved in this story, but once the introductory part of the story

is over, one narrates long passages at a time, with the other just

listening and making very short comments.

The purpose of the interlocutor Melit6n is not to extract

information from the other interlocutor, as in "Paso del Norte,"

but rather to reinforce it. By thus establishing Meliton as an au-

thority early in the story,25 the reader is able to accept Meliton's

quotation of the governor's speech without question (p. 3); otherwise

one might doubt and think that he had made up parts of it, thus re-

ducing the effect of grotesqueness which strongly comes through the


The puzzling effect of the end of the story, where Meliton's

authority is destroyed, will be discussed in Chapter IV. It is simply

mentioned here as the main factor in creation of ambiguity in this


Donald K. Gordon's classification of "No oyes ladrar los perros"

as a story told through dialogue is based on the fact that dialogue

plays a more important part in the unfolding of the narrative than

does the authorial narration. This great preponderance of dialogue,

which goes directly to the reader without a narrator imposing himself

between story and reader, means that the aesthetic distance between

the two is lessened. One might expect, then, that when the omniscient

author takes over to narrate, this aesthetic distance would auto-

matically increase. Such is not the case, however, for Rulfo narrates

in such a way that what is third-person narration seems to be some-

thing else. As the father carries his wounded son on his back through

the desert night, an omniscient narrator describes the scene. This

narrator's use of alla arriba and aca abajo makes it appear that he is

actually a participant in the action.

El otro iba.alla arriba, todo iluminado
por la luna, con su cara descolorida, sin sangre,
reflejando una luz opaca. Y el aca abajo. (p. 115)

By thus equalizing this distance, the story is integrated into a

homogeneous narrative, without the differences which might be expected

from the combining of modes. The subtlety of the technique momentarily

impedes the determination of the actual narrator.

We have seen in this chapter how the various ways in which Rulfo

uses the point of view of the narrator lead to the feeling that things

are not as they seem to be. The reader feels that his apprehension

of point of view is frequently illusory, thus generating in the reader

a certain insecurity about whether or not his understanding of the

story is the correct one.


Donald K. Gordon, "Juan Rulfo: Cuentista," p. 203.

2Idem, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," pp. 86-87.

Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, p. 62.


5Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," pp. 14-16.

6Ibid., p. 14.

Robert Humphrey, Stream of Consciousness in the Modern Novel
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968),
pp. 29-30.

Donald K. Gordon, "Juan Rulfo: Cuentista," p. 200.

Harss and Dohmann, p. 261.

1Donald K. Gordon, "Juan Rulfo: Cuentista," p. 200.

11Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala, pp. 19-23.

12Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," p. 128.

13Ibid., p. 199.
SThe term semi-dialogue is used because of the fact that the
interlocutor never speaks or has any other intervention in the story,
although he is a character in his own right, about whom we have certain
knowledge (e.g. he is going to Luvina, he has beer which he does not
drink, etc.).

1Classification of Luis Leal.

16Donald K. Gordon, "Juan Rulfo: Cuentista," p. 203.

17Mariana Frenk, "Pedro Paramo," Universidad de Mexico, 15, No. 11
(July, 1960), 21.
8Donald K. Gordon, "Juan Rulfo: Cuentista," p. 201.

19Iugo Rodriguez-Alcala, pp. 17-18.


20Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala, pp. 19-23.
Ibid., pp. 23.

22Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, p. 6-3.

23Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," p. 126.

2It is interesting to note the use of a female narrator and
urban setting in this story. Both are unique in the works of Rulfo,
although it should be remembered that his first novel, which he later
destroyed, had an urban setting.
2Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," pp. 183-



We will now examine the time element in Rulfo's stories. It will

be shown that his time techniques result in the creation of a world

in which the reader is kept in a continuous state of disorientation.

The question of time is one which has disturbed men over the ages.

Time may have different meanings. for the scientist, the mathematician,

the philosopher, the poet. In literature, time can be used in many

different ways, a fact which has become more evident in this century,

as authors' experiments with time in their works have taken on more and

more importance.

Time is always important in Rulfo's stories. He uses it in

varying ways, sometimes slowing its passage, sometimes .accelerating its

passage, often suspending it, denying it, always in a manner which

helps in maintaining reader confusion. For purposes of this study,

we can discern three general categories of time in Rulfo's stories,

and we will start our study with the category in which there are the

fewest stories, that in which time flows at different speeds. We

shall then consider the category with the most stories, those in which

there is a partial stopping of time. There are two types of story in

this group: those in which the time element is considered on dual

levels, and those in which itis considered on a single level.

Finally, we shall examine the stories which are atemporal, the

manifestationrwhich is commonly but erroneously believed to be most

typical of Rulfo's stories.

In 1955 Carlos Blanco Aguinaga made the first attempt to analyze

the time element in El llano en llamas. However, the fact that he

tried to apply the same norms to all of the stories results in a

misapprehension of the use which Rulfo makes of time and fails to

recognize the special effects achieved in some of them. Edmundo

Valades also speaks of nonexistent time in El llano en llamas, but the

examples which he uses to support this theory do not come from a

representative group of stories.

Ramon Xirau's statement on time in Rulfo is probably the most

perceptive, but unfortunately he does not enter into details:

La negacion del tiempo que, al transformarse
en pasado, se vuelve cosa, es.tan solo parcial
in los cueritos de El llano en llamas. Entre los
quince cuentos que componen el libro, "Luvina"
se acerca, mas que ningun otro, a la negaci6n
total del tiempo. . En esta negacion total
de los tiempos, "Luvina" es el antecedente
director de la esplendida novel que es Pedro

The denial of time in "Luvina" is again mentioned by Luis Leal,

who makes reference to Carlos Blanco Aguinaga's original article on
the subject, and by Jose de la Colina who, perhaps inadvertently,

says much the same as Blanco Aguinaga without mentioning the latter's

work. Other than these articles, the only studies of time in Rulfo's

stories are brief references found in other, general studies, which

will be mentioned as necessary in the development of the present


We will now see how Rulfo causes time to flow at different

speeds in three of his stories. The first of these is "El llano en

llamas." One might expect that dual time levels would predominate

in this story, due to the fact that it is a monologue. As we will

see later, stories in which the narrator is within the story are

frequently told on dual levels. Such is not the case, however. It

must be kept in mind that, as we have seen in the preceding chapter,

Rulfo effectively combines various devices to disguise the fact that

this is a monologue. Since the reader seldom feels the monologic

aspect of the story, he also does not feel dual time levels.

We have already noted the importance of the story's external

action in the preceding chapter. We can now add that the rate of time

passage in the story depends upon how much action is described, and

how it is described. In the following passage, in which the dominant

tense is the preterite, time seems to move rapidly:

Nos dimos vuelta y los miramos por la
mira de las troneras.
Pasaron los primeros, luego los segundos
y otros mas, con el cuerpo echado para adelante,
jorobados de sueno. Les relumbraba la carade
sudor, como si la hubiera zambullido en el agua
al pasar por el arroyo.
Siguieron pasando.
Llego la seal. Se oyo un chiflido largo
y comenzo la tracatera alli lejos, por donde
se habia ido La Perra. Luego siguio aqui.
Fue facil. Casi tapaban el agujero de las
troneras con su bulto, de modo que aquello era
como tirarles a boca de jarro y hacerles pegar
tamano respingo de la vida a la muerte sin que
apenas se dieran cuenta.
Pero esto duro muy poquito. . (p. 68)

The effect is reinforced through the predomination of short,

choppy sentences, the short paragraphs, and finally the statement

"pero esto duro muy poquito."

After the skirmish, the protagonist's band of men is routed, and

they run to a safe hiding place. Here the action gives way to a

definite lack of action, and time seems to pass much more slowly:

Nos quedabamos agazapados detras de unas
piedras grandes y boludas, todavia resollando
fuerte por la carrera. Solamente mirabamos a
Pedro Zamora preguntandole con los ojos que era
lo que nos habia pasado. Pero el tambien
nos miraba sin decirnos nada . .
Pedro Zamora nos segula mirando. Estaba
haciendo sus cuentas con los ojos; con aquellos
ojos que el tenia . . Nos contaba de uno en
uno. Sabia ya cuantos eramos los que estabamos
alli, pero parecla no estar seguro todavia;
por eso nos repasaba una vez y otra y otra. (p. 69)

The use of relatively long sentences and paragraphs, and the relatively

static state of the scene combine to make it appear that time is now

going forward more slowly. The dominant tense is now the imperfect.

Time has not stopped entirely, however, because we see Pedro Zamora in

a temporal series: he counts once, then again, and again.

Time jumps are used in the story. They are always ahead, into the

future. Thus the chronology is not broken:

Habia vuelto la paz al Llano Grande.

Pero no por much tiempo.
Hacia cosa de ocho meses que estabamos
escondidos en el escondrijo del cann del Tozn . .
(p. 72)

It is impossible to determine precisely how much time transpires

in this story. The narrator tells us, toward the end of the story,

"con Pedro Zamora anduve cosa de cinco anos" (p. 82). However, we have

no way of knowing what part of the five years is represented by this

story. He also tells us, "yo sall de la carcel hace tres anos" (p. 83).

Since we do not know how much time he spent in jail, we have a further

barrier to the determination of exactly how much time passes in the

story. Nevertheless, it can be safely stated that this is the story

in which the greatest amount of time passes in chronological order.

In "Paso del Norte" we also see time moving at different speeds,

due in part to the use of dialogue in contrast with other modes of


In Part I, in the dialogue between father and son, time moves

along slowly as they converse. However, as Part II starts and the

narrator changes, time seems to move faster. This happens when a

mass of people is involved, rather than individuals, and when the

action is narrated with a minimum of details:

De los ranchos bajaba la gente a los pueblos;
la gente de los pueblos se iba a las cuidades. En
las ciudades la gente se perdia, se disolvia entire
la gente. (p. 122)

When dialogue then ensues, time again slows down.

In Part III there is. a time period which must have been skipped

by the author. We already know that the character involved needs two

hundred pesos in order to be taken to the United States. On p. 123

we read:

Y si, bajamos mercancla de los trenes de
la manana a la noche y todavfa nos sobro tarea
pa otro dfa. Nos pagaron. Yo conte el dinero:
Sesenta y cuatro pesos. Si todos los dias
fueran asi.
-Senor, aqui le traigo los doscientos pesos.

The actual time involved here cannot be determined. From the way in

which these paragraphs fit together, the reader gets the impression

that the second dialogue follows immediately, which cannot bepossible.

Between Part III and the last part of the story, there is another

jump, covering the time between the departure for the United States

and the return home after surviving the attack at.the river crossing.

In the last part, father and son again are in a dialogue. By means of

a flashback, the son tells the father the story, thus filling in the

space of time which had been jumped. Then the father fills in for the

son the main event which took place during his absence: his wife has

run away with a muleteer. However, he does not use flashback to tell


The reader feels time passing at different speeds in "Anacleto

Morones," a process which is controlled by the passing in and out

of the narrator's mind. This process has already been discussed in the

previous chapter. In the long, boring dialogues, time passes slowly.

The narrator himself confesses to us his purpose in doing this:

La cosa, pues, estaba en hacerles larga la
platica, hasta que se les hiciera de noche,
quitandoles la idea que les bullia en la cabeza.
(p. 131)

He manages to achieve this end. When the women arrive, it is shortly

after lunch time, since the sun is high in the sky, and so he offers

them food, which they refuse, saying they have just eaten (pp. 127,

128, 130). Later we are told: "eran las tres de la tarde" (p. 136).

Finally they all leave except one, whom he invites to spend the night

with him. She accepts, and the time then jumps to early the next

morning (p. 143).

It is in the interior time level where time apparently passes

faster, due to the narrator's giving a summation of events:

Y me ful otra vez al corral, a cortar arrayanes.
Y alli me entretuve lo mas que pude, mientras se
le bajaba el mal humor a la mujer aquella.
Cuando regrese, ya se habia ido. (p. 132)

The amount of time which has passed is more, in this short passage,

than that which passes in some of the longer passages.


The rather large group of stories in which time is partially

stopped are basically of two types: those in which we can discern two

levels of time, and in which time does not flow on one of the levels,

and those which have only one level of time, on which it sometimes

flows and sometimes does not.

The first story in which dual time levels are significant is

"Macario." In the time level which we could call objective or exterior,

time flows. Macario is aware of this flow. He starts the story by

saying "Estoy sentado junto a la alcantarilla aguardando a que

salgan las ranas" (p. 9). He is aware of waiting; therefore the

passage of time must have meaning for him. Near the end of the story

he says "ahora estoy junto a la alcantarilla esperando a que salgan

las ranas. Y no ha salido ninguna en todo este rato que llevo

platicando" (p. 14). From this last statement, we see that he feels

time flowing.

Time does not stop on this level. The last sentence of the story

ends not with a period, but with leaders, thus suggesting the con-

tinuation of Macario's chattering:

De lo que mas ganas tengo es de volver a probar
algunos tragos de la leche de Felipa, aquella leche
buena y dulce como la miel que le sale por debajo
a las flores del obelisco. . (p. 14)

While Macario is seated at the sewer, a second, psychological

(or interior) time level comes into play. Time does not flow on this

level; there is no meaningful temporal series which we could construct

by which time could be measured. The events which he describes take

place at indefinite times: "Ahora ya hace much tiempo que no me da

a chupar . ." (p. 10); "Un dia inventaron que yo andaba ahorcando

a alguien . ." (p. 10); "Felipa antes iba todas las noches al

cuarto . ." (p. 10); "Dicen en la calle que yo estoy loco . .

yo no lo he oido" (p. 10). None of these events can be assigned a

definite order with respect to each other, or with respect to any other

event. They simply occurred, some of them perhaps once, others possi-

bly many times. Time in this level does not pass for Macario, and he

talks about events as they come to his mind, part of one suggesting

something else, with no time sequence:

Y uno da topes contra el suelo; primero despacito,
despues mas recio y aquello suena como un tambor.
Igual que el tambor que anda con la chirimia,
cuando viene la chirimia a la function del Senor.
Y entonces, uno esta en la iglesia, amarrado a
la madrina, oyendo afuera el tum tum del tambor.
(p. 12)

Carlos Blanco Aguinaga finds that time is in suspension in

"Talpa," and gives the following analysis:

Mas insistente aun que en los demas cuentos
es aqui el laconismo repetitive y monotono del
que narra la historic. Mas aun que en "Luvina,"
el monologo, con su repeticion de frases, e
ideas, con su recoger al final de los parrafos
lo dicho al principio, parece haber estancado
para siempre los hechos exteriores en la medi-
tacion interior del personaje.7

He also notes that in this story "ahora y antes parecen ya ser el mismo

instante" and that entiree el principio y el final del parrafo no ha

pasado el tiempo."8

Donald K. Gordon feels that the constant repetition and freezing

of time are tied to the theme of remorse, which dominates the story.

He divides the story in five parts, emphasizing the tense which domi-

nates each section, an analysis which does not seem to lead to any

particular conclusion. He also sees the constant present-past switching

as placing different conceptual values on ahora and entonces, and also

as being a result of the frequent repetition of ideas.9

In the following passage, which Blanco Aguinaga uses as an example

of Rulfo's technique for stopping time,1 it must be recognized that

this suspension depends in part upon a realization of the fact that the

"ahora" of the passage is not an immediate "ahora" for the narrator,

but rather one which the narrator recalls from the second, exterior

time level:

Algun dia llegara la noche. En eso pensabamos.
Llegara la noche y nos pondremos a descansar.
Ahora se trata de cruzar el dia, de atravesarlo
como sea para correr del calor y del sol.
Despues nos detendremos. Despues. Lo que
tenemos que hacer por lo pronto es esfuerzo
tras esfuerzo para ir de prisa detras de tantos
como nosotros y delante de otros muchos. De
eso se trata. Ya descansaremos bien a bien cuando
estemos muertos.
En eso pensabamos Natalia y yo .. .
(pp. 60-61)

In addition to these comments, it would seem that another process,

also seen for example in "La cuesta de las comadres" or "La herencia

de Matilde Arcangel," is a factor in the portrayal of time. This is

the fact that Part I contains the two basic elements of the story, the

remorse and the murder of Tanilo Santos. With these facts given out,

the reader must not expect a traditional time progression to a climax,

but rather must expect to look for a more personal, Rulfian depiction

of time.

The second, exterior level of time complements the interior level

already explained. This level is typically tied to the first person

narrator, and is not readily visible until well into Part II of the

story where it is constantly felt through the use of such phrases as

"yo se ahora que Natalia esta arrepentida de lo que pas6," or "me

acuerdo muy bien de esas noches" (p. 57). This level is again very

apparent in the last section of the story: "Ahora estamos los dos en

Zenzontla" (p. 64). It has been somewhat elusive up to this point,

but now the whole last section is narrated with the present tense


In "Es que somos muy pobres," the objective time level serves as

a frame around the events of the story which is told on an interior

level. It starts "aqui todo va de mal en peor" (p. 31), and ends with

the narrator trying to console his sister and at the same time con-

templating her future. "Yo la abrazo tratando de consolarla ... ."

(p. 35). Within this frame, the narrator gives us the disastrous

events of the past week, and especially of the last three days. There

is a frequent interplay of the two levels, which are united through the

mind of the narrator: "No acabo de saber por que se le occurrirfa a

la Serpentina pasar el rio este, cuando sabia que no era el mismo rio

que ella conocia de a diario" (pp. 32-33).

On the psychological time level, time both flows and is suspended.

Both of these conditions are under the control of the narrator. Time

flow is measured by sequences of catastrophes:

La semana pasada se me murio mi tfa Jacinta, y el
sabado, cuando ya la habiamos enterrado y comenzaba
a bajarsenos la tristeza, comenzo a lover como nunca.
(p. 31)

There are four such sequences, not necessarily in chronological

order with respect to one another. The first one is the first

paragraph of the story, part of which is reproduced above. The second

one deals with the flood and discovery that the cow la Serpentina had

been carried off, from p. 31, paragraph two, until the end of the second

paragraph on p. 32.

The third sequence is the narrator's mental reconstruction of the

events of the cow's drowning, from the last paragraph of p. 32 to the

second paragraph of p. 33. The final catastrophic sequence deals with

the falling of the other daughters into prostitution, from the last

paragraph on p. 33 to the second paragraph on p. 34.

In the last two series, the intervention of the objective time

level is greater and greater, thus resulting in a tendency toward less

time flow. After the final sequence of tragedies, the flow is sus-

pended as the narrator stops narrating sequences of events, which would

provide the means by which to feel a movement of time, and starts


Mi mama no sabe por que Dios la ha castigado tanto
al darle unas hijas de ese modo, cuando en su
familiar, desde mi abuelo para aca, nunca ha habido
gente mala. -. 35)

In the narration of events in the second series of catastrophes,

regarding the rising water and flood, there is a curious time jump

which is very subtle. The river started growing "hace tres noches, a

eso de la madrugada" (p. 31). By the time the narrator left the house,

"el rio ya habfa perdido sus orillas" (pp. 31-32). He and his sister

went back in the afternoon to watch the spectacle and then went up the

cliff for a better look. "Alli fue donde supimos que el rio se habia

llevado a la Serpentina, la vaca esa que era de mi hermana Tauha

...." (p. 32). It would be natural to assume that, although the

narrator does not say so, it was at this time and place that they got

the bad news. However, since we already have been told that . .

apenas ayer . supimos.que la vaca que mi papa le regale para el

dia de su santo se la habia llevado el r{o" (p. 31), there is a day

unaccounted for. Since the mentioned visit to the cliff took place

the first day, and the revelation of the cow's loss came ayer, these

could not have coincided, as we are led to believe by the statement

that "all{ fue donde supimos que el rio se habia llevado a.

la Serpentina . ." (p. 32).

As the sequential narration ends and the philosophizing begins,

the present tense dominates. This allows the narrator, at the very

end, to slip into the immediate present (and objective time level),

thus completing the frame around the story.

Donald K. Gordon believes there are three time levels in "Nos han

dado la tierra," which he describes thus: the first level corresponds

to the episode with the government delegate, the second corresponds

to the crossing of the llano, and the third to the scrutinizing of the

land. He believes that they appear in the sequence 2-1-3.1

A:close inspection of the story reveals that there are in fact

only two levels of time. The second and third levels which Gordon

distinguishes are in fact one; the scrutinizing actually takes place

during the homeward trek, across the llano, toward home. The second

level is presented as a flashback and consists of the meeting with the

government delegate.

It can be shown that the first time level, which Gordon tries to

divide, is only one level by the facts which follow. As the story

begins, we read "ahorita son algo asi como las cuatro de la tarde"

(p. 15). At the very end of the story, we are told that they have been

walking for eleven hours. Since we already know that they started at

dawn, and there is nothing to indicate the intervention of another

day, we can calculate that from dawn to four p.m. is.about eleven


This calculation also shows us that time does not move forward in

this story. This is achieved through the process described by Carlos

Blanco Aguinaga, of repetition of thoughts and words, thus making all

his words seem suspended in a given moment:12

Hemos venido caminando desde el amanecer.
Ahorita son algo asi como las cuatro de la tarde.
Alguien se asoma al cielo, estira los ojos hacia
donde esta colgado el sol y dice:
-Son como las cuatro de la tarde.
Ese alguien es Meliton. Junto con e1, vamos
Faustino, Esteban y yo. Somos cuatro. Yo los
cuento: dos adelante, otros dos atras. Miro
mas atras y no veo a nadie. Entonces me digo:
"Somos cuatro." (p. 15)

At the very end of the story the process of creating monotony,and

thus suspending time, stops. This coincides with.the travellers'

arrival at good land. The tedium gives way to pleasure at being

covered with dust, and the world seems to come alive:

Por encima del rio, sobre copas verdes en
las casuarinas, vuelan parvadas de chachalacas
verdes. Eso tambien es lo que nos gusta.
Ahora los ladridos de los perros se oyen
aqui, junto a nosotros, y es que el viento que
viene del pueblo retacha en la barranca y la
lena de todos sus ruidos. (p. 20)

This part of the story is quite brief and does not contradict the

prior analysis which we have made regarding the stoppage of time, since

the four p.m. and the calculation of dawn were only approximations.

Time within the flashback proceeds at two speeds. During the

brief dialogue, which constitutes the bulk of the flashback, it moves

somewhat slower than it does during the narrated part, which is in

effect a dialogue which has been condensed and paraphrased:

Nosotros paramos la jeta para decir que
queriamos lo que estaba junto al rio. Del
rio para alli, por las vegas, donde estan
esos arboles llamados casuarinas . .
Pero no nos dejaron decir nuestras cosas.
(p. 17).

Donald K. Gordon has recognized the time dualism in "Un pedazo de

noche." The two levels of time in this story are set up very much

like the dual levels in the other stories which we have already seen.

What is unique about "Un pedazo de noche," however, is the fact that in

Part II of the story, the psychological, past level, in which the

narration has been taking place, is totally suppressed and only the

present level continues. Further, the suppression of this level is

accomplished by such an adept transition that one hardly notices it:

Senti que se sentaba al pie de la cama . .

Es el mismo que esta sentado ahora al borde
de mi cama, en silencio, con la cabeza entire las manos...
(p. 14)

This transition represents a jump forward in time, from the

interior (past) level, to the exterior (present) level. However, there

is no way to determine how much time has ensued between the two.

There is also, in the first part, an attenuation in the interior

or psychological level due to the passages of dialogue in which the

narrator does not appear as narrator but rather as interlocutor:

INo lo vas a llevar a su casa?
Para alli iba. Pero al verte varied de
opinion. Se me ocurrio que el nino pasaria
bien la noche con nosotros.
.Te divierte hacer eso?
iQue dices?
Yo a ti te habia echado el ojo -
siguio diciendo . . (pp. 9-10)

In passages such as this, of which there are several, the reader feels

that he is witnessing the development of the action rather than

receiving it through the words of a character-narrator; thus he

momentarily loses sight of the fact that this is a psychological time

level, a memory which the narrator.is reconstructing.

From the beginning of the story till the end of the introductory

section (p. 7), time in the psychological level seems stopped. Nothing

happens; the first-person narrator simply gives us some thoughts on her

station in life (she is a prostitute).

The actual events of the narration start thus: "Asi en esas

andanzas, fue cuando conoci al que despues fue mi marido .. ."

(p. 7). With this, the events are then given in sequence, and time

is allowed to flow forward. The events started at night: "Una noche

se me acerco un hombre" (p. 7). They end early the next morning:

"Ya casi era de dia. Ol0a a dia, aunque las puertas y las casas

segufan oscuras" (p. 13).

In "El dia del derrumbe," the psychological time level is char-

acterized by partial suspension of the flow of time. This level is

divided into blocks by the intervention of the present level (i.e.,

the time period during which the narration is taking place). Within

each large block, the flow of time is suspended, but the blocks follow

each other in order, thus giving the impression of time movement.

Within the psychological level, practically nothing happens.

The governor's long, ridiculous, and boring speech is the prime reason

for this effect of suspension of the flow of time:

Tuxcacuenses, vuelvo a insistir: Me duele
vuestra desgracia, pues a pesar de lo que decia
Bernal, el gran Bernal Diaz del Castillo: "Los
homes que murieron habian sido contratados para
la muerte," yo, en los considerandos de mi
concept ontol6gico y human digo: IMe duelel
con el dolor que produce ver derruido el arbol
en su primera inflorescencia. (p. 3)

The exterior time level frequently intervenes in the speech:

"--Alli tambien hubo aplausos, Iverdad, Meliton? (p. 3). When the

psychological level starts another block, time seems to move forward,

even though within the block it does not. Thus it can be seen that

part of Melitin's function in this story is to keep bringing the ex-

terior level into the psychological level, dividing it into sections

and providing flux.

The impression of time movement can be verified by the fact that

the interior level started in the afternoon with a banquet and ended

when it was "muy noche" (p. 5).

Carlos Blanco Aguinaga has discussed the suspension of time in

IIDiles que no me matenl," which he classifies as a "cuento dramatic

dialogado." He considers time to be in suspension in this story, an

effect which results from the fatalism and meditative laconism in the

story. He calls the world of the story "ajeno a la historic," and

believes that within the story there is a monotonous, obsessive force

which removes the possibility of the flow of time.14

We can further observe that there is another level of time on

which time does flow. This level is seen in the first and last parts

of the story, which together form a unit of time in which there is

chronological progression. This unit is broken by the intervention of

a psychological time level, on which time does not flow.

In Part I, Juvencio pleads with his son to intercede for him with

the colonel who he knows is about to execute him. We are not told

the reason for this, although it is apparent in Part II that Juvencio

knows the reason. In the last part of the story we see the events

immediately after Juvencio's execution. The actual execution has been

omitted, and this parts starts thus: "ahora, por fin, se habia apaci-

guado" (p. 93). There is a time flow in the story, from the time we

see Juvencio tied up awaiting execution, to immediately after his

execution, when his son comes to take him home for burial.

Blanco Aguinaga's analysis of the suspension of time in the story

applies to the parts of the story which intervene between the first

and the last. In these parts, we get Juvencio's recollection of the

events which have brought about his present predicament. It is in

these parts of the story where time seems in suspension.

This effect is achieved through another device.besides those

which Blanco Aguinaga has cited. We can observe that at the end of

Part IV (the second-last part), we witness the colonel pronouncing

Juvencio's death sentence. This logically took place just before

Juvencio's entreaties to his son (Part I). Thus time has not advanced

on the psychological level.

The time element in "El hombre" is extremely complex. On the

first reading, one realizes that, in the first part of the story, there

are two time levels, one corresponding to the hombre, or the pursued,

and the other associated with his pursuer. This fact is what caused

Donald K. Gordon to classify "El hombre" as a story whose action occurs

on different but simultaneous planes.16 However, on closer inspection,

it can be seen that the complexity of time in Part I is even greater

than it at first seems.

There is an element in Part I, the river, which is not necessarily

associated with either the pursued or the pursuer. The river is always

described in the present tense, in contrast with the rest of the nar-

rative which is in the past. It thus assumes an aura of eternal being,

which makes it cut across both time planes. It is at the river where

pursued and pursuer (and their respective time planes) meet.

Muy abajo el rio corre mullendo sus aguas
entire sabinos florecidos; meciendo su espesa corriente
en silencio. Camina y da vueltas sobre s{ mismo. (p. 39)

El rio en estos lugares es ancho y hondo y no
tropieza con ninguna piedra. (p. 42)

The eternal being aspect fits the river well, due to the constant

association in Rulfo's stories of rivers and death.

The time level associated with el hombre is characterized by a

lack of chronogical order, which is one of the key factors used in

maintaining reader disorientation. On p. 38, we get the comments of

the pursuer on the murders committed by the pursued:

El que lo persegula dijo: "Hizo un buen
trabajo. Ni siquiera los despert6. Debi6 llegar
a eso de la una, cuando el sueno es mas pesado .. ."

However, on the following page when el hombre has already reached the


river, we read the description of the actual murders:

Se persign6 hasta tres veces. "Disculpenme,"
les dijo. Y comenzo su tarea. Cuando llego
al tercero, le sal{an chorretes de lagrimas . .
Cuesta trabajo matar.

In Part II we also see two time levels, but these are more like

the dual levels which Rulfo uses in his other stories than they are

like the ones in Part I of "El hombre." The level of the present,

during which the narration is taking place, frequently intervenes in

the second level to stop its flow:

Volvio a hacer la operaci6n de secarse en
pelota y luego arrendo rio arriba por'el rumbo
de donde habia venido.
Que me lo dieran ahorita. De saber lo que
habia hecho lo hubiera apachurrado a pedradas . .
(p. 44)

The second level, then, begins with the shepherd's seeing the

hombre at the river and flows on until he finds him there dead several

days later. It is impossible to determine exactly how the second part

fits into the first. The shepherd of Part II observes the hombre in

the river, which is where he was at the end of Part I. However, the

shepherd does not observe the presence of the pursuer, who also is at

the edge of the river at the end of Part I, awaiting the return of the

hombre. It is possible that the shepherd witnessed some of the events

of Part I, or that the events he narrates occurred after Part I. In

any case, time moves along sequentially, with the interruptions of the

objective level already noted, until the final great event of the

psychological level, the death of the hombre from gunshot wounds in

the neck, exactly as his pursuer had threatened that he would kill


In "Acuerdate" the frequent use of direct address of a nameless

interlocutor in the first part (which ends at the first paragraph on

p. 112) and especially the form acuerdate, constantly keeps in view

the time during which the actual narrating is taking place.

In the second, psychological level, there is a complete suspension

of the flow of time in Part I, due to the fact that nothing at all

happens on this level. The narrator spends a great deal of Part I

in introducing characters of their common past (i.e., his and the

interlocutor's) and giving their relationships to one another.

Acuerdate de Urbano Gomez, hijo de don Urbano,
nieto de Dimas, aquel que dirigia las pastorelas
y que murio recitando el "rezonga angel maldito" . .
(p. 110)

The beginning of the second part is marked by the following


Quiza entonces se volvio malo, o quiza
ya era de nacimiento. (p. 112)

Up to this point we have been given the characters who take part in the

events which are to be narrated. A plot now starts to unfold, and as

the sequence of events is narrated, time seems to flow.

Lo expulsaron de la escuela antes del
quinto ano, porque lo encontraron con su
prima la Arremangada jugando a marido y mujer
detras de los lavaderos . . (p. 112)

The story continues in this manner to the end, with one interruption by

the narrator, momentarily taking the reader out of the psychological

time level, in which the action takes place: "Solo que te falle much

la memorial, no te has de acordar de eso" (p. 112).

At the end of the story, the narrator brings us back again to the

level in which the narrating is taking place: "T1 te debes acordar

de ~l, pues fuimos companeros de escuela y lo conociste como yo"

(p. 113).

In "No oyes ladrar los perros," much more time passes on the

exterior level than the reader realizes at first. Hugo Rodr{guez-

Alcala affirms that in the story "ha transcurrido much tiempo."17

Donald K. Gordon notes that the movement of the moon is the means by
which the passage of time is measured.8 As the story starts, "la

luna venia saliendo de la tierra, como una llamarada redonda" (p. 114).

At approximately the middle of the story, we see that "la luna iba

subiendo, casi azul, sobre un cielo claro. La cara del viejo, mojada

en sudor, se lleno de luz" (p. 116). At the end of the story, the moon

is high in the sky: "Alli estaba el pueblo. Vio brillar los tejados

bajo la luz de la luna" (p. 118). Although no one can say precisely

how many hours and minutes have passed, it is clear that the larger

part of a night has gone by.

On another level, however, time passage is in effect suspended.

This is achieved essentially by the process described by Blanco

Aguinaga: the monotonously repetitive, boring dialogues which seem to
go nowhere.9 "No oyes ladrar los perros" begins with this type of


--T6 que vas alli arriba, Ignacio, dime si no
oyes alguna senal de algo o si ves alguna luz en
alguna parte.
--No se ve nada.
--Ya debemos estar cerca.
--Si, pero no se oye nada.
--Mira bien.
--No se ve nada.
--Pobre de ti, Ignacio. (p. 114)

The process is repeated throughout the story.

The use of time in "La herencia de Matilde Arcangel" is very

similar to its use in "Acuerdate." In the first part of the story,

time is stopped by the shunning of ordered sequences, and the presenta-

tion of conditions rather than events.

The digression is a technique which is also used to effect the

stopping of time flow:

Y regresando a donde estabamos, les comenzaba
a platicar de unos fulanos que vivieron hace tiempo
en Corazon de Maria. (p. 58)

Another technique is used to alter a traditional view of time flow

when a series of events, which might be seen as an ordered sequence, is

given. It consists of presenting a brief summary of the events before

elaborating on them: "Despues engordo. Tuvo un hijo. Luego murio.

La mato un caballo desbocado" (p. 58). The narrator then presents the

details which proceeded these incidents. Although the details are

presented in a sequence in which time appears to flow, the reader's

attitude toward this time sequence has been altered by the prior narra-

tion of its conclusion, again resulting in a personal depiction of time.

In Part II, which begins with the second paragraph of p. 61, time

begins to flow. He narrates the passing of two opposing groups of

soldiers, how the father joined one group and the son the other, and the

return of the son with his dead father's body. The actual way in which

it is narrated is little different from the way in which he narrates

Matilde's getting killed by a horse, with the important exception

of the fact that in Part II, the reader does not know beforehand the

outcome of the action. This results in a traditional flow of time

toward the goal. It also results in reader disorientation due to

the juxtaposition of similar techniques with different effects.

The structure of "La vida no es muy seria en sus cosas" does not

exhibit great differences from that of the previous two stories, in

spite of the fact that its narrator is not working from within the


In the first part of the story, the events of the past intermix.

There is no flow of time toward anything, no ordering of events:

. en ocasiones, ella la cantaba en voz baja,
como para si misma; pero enseguida, se veia
rodeada por unas ganas locas de llorar, y
lloraba . .
. En otras, se olvidaba por complete de
que su hijo existia . (p. 35)

Part II of this story, which starts on p. 36 at the second

paragraph, is shorter than the second parts of the other stories with

similar structure. In Part II of "La vida no es muy seria en sus

cosas," Rulfo narrates a connected series of related events, which

serve to move time forward. He starts the series with aquella manana

which, although indefinite, serves to situate the events at a certain

time. A series of definite events, in chronological order, moves the

action ahead in a temporal progression. In spite of the fact that

the amount of time which passes here is short, it does nevertheless

flow and thus it provides a contrast with Part I, in which the passage

of time is suspended.

Abrio la puerta para salir, pero
enseguida sintio un viento frio . .
Entonces regreso por su abrigo . ..
(p. 36)

Time is controlled by a very different means in "La noche que io

dejaron solo." In this story the flow or stopping of time is con-

trolled through the mind of the protagonist, Feliciano Ruelas.

The story starts with Ruelas at the point of. exhaustion from
fleeing the authorities. He has lost all sense of time:2

"Es mejor que este oscuro. Asi no nos
veran." Tambien habian dicho eso un poco antes,
o quiza la noche anterior. No se acordaba. El
sueno le nublaba el pensamiento ..

Oyo cuando se le perdian los pasos:
aquellos huecos talonazos que habia venido
oyendo quien sabe desde cuando, durante quien sabe
cuantas noches. (p. 105)

This time disorientation for Feliciano Ruelas is carried into the

second part of the story:

Lo despert6 el frio de la madrugada. La
humedad del rocio.
Abrio los ojos. Vio estrellas transparentes
en un cielo claro, por encima de las ramas
"Esta oscureciendo," pens6. Y se volvio a
dormir. (p. 106)

He awakens, and continues his journey. After he gets down a

cliff, we read: "De pronto se quedo quieto" (p. 108). From this point

on, time flows. No longer does he dwell on his fear of the muleteers.

He has become fully awake and aware of the world around him, and he

heads straight for where he was supposed to meet his uncles. He

arrives, finds them dead, and witnesses a dialogue among their mur-

derers. He then escapes:

Feliciano Ruelas espero todavia
un rato a que se le calmara el bullicio que
sentia cosquillearle el est6mago. Luego
sorbio tantito aire . .. y . se fue
caminando . .

Cuando llego al reliz del arroyo,
enderezo la cabeza y se ech6 a correr . . (p. 109)
Time and fate are linked in this story.1 By not pushing on with

his uncles the day before, Feliciano escapes their end. He follows

their instructions on how to proceed, "aunque no a las mismas horas"

(p. 107). This is what saves his life.

The last group of stories which we will consider is those in

which the possibility of the passage of time is denied. Chronological

progression is avoided by several means which we will study in con-

junction with the stories.

Regarding the time problem in "La Cuesta de las Comadres,"

Donald K. Gordon has observed that the story is told looking back

upon the events, that there is no chronological progression in the

narrator's thoughts, and that the narration centers around life:at

la Cuesta and his killing of Remigio Torrico.22

Throughout the first part of this story, time does not flow.

Besides the lack of chronological progression which Gordon noticed,

it can also be observed that the narrator emphasizes conditions, rather

than happenings, thus creating a sense of stability and timelessness

rather than change and progression.

Por otra parte, en la Cuesta de las Comadres,
los Torricos no la llevaban bien con todo el mundo.
Seguido habia desavenencias. Y si no es much
decir, ellos eran alli los duenos de la tierra y
de las casas que estaban encima de la tierra . .
(p. 21)

Although the episode of the robbery of the muleteer (pp. 24-26)

might seem similar to other passages in which there is a flow of time,

due to the apparent succession of related events, the entire episode is

placed within an atemporal frame. He mentions, just before the

episode begins, how he realized "aquella hoche que les ayude a robar

a un arriero" that he was getting old and "ya no servia para much"

(p. 24). Thus we see that night of long ago as part of the timeless


De ese modo fue como supe que cosas iban a
espiar todas las tardes los Torricos, sentados
junto a mi casa de la Cuesta de las Comadres.
(pp. 25-26)

Part II of the story, which begins immediately after the above

episode, is organized in a similar manner. It starts thus: "A

Remigio Torrico yo lo mate" (p. 26). By putting what is logically the

climax of this part before any of the action which leads up to it, the

reader's attitude with respect to the apparent flow of time is again

altered. The traditional view of time, presented through a sequence

of events leading up to a climax, has been replaced once more by

Rulfo's personal view of time.

This story is unique among stories with a first-person participant

narrator, in that the level of exterior time, the time in which he is

narrating, also seems to be in suspension. This is due to the fact

that this level is effectively disguised until the end of the story.

There is a lack of such expressions as acuerdate, which in the story

of the same name keep the exterior level visible, until the second-last

paragraph of the story, where we read: "me acuerdo que ... ."

(p. 30). By bringing this level into full view at the very end, it

seems not to move, but rather to stand still.

Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala has already noted how, in "En la madrugada,"

Rulfo conquers the passing of time. According to him, the impression

which the reader gets, that about twenty-four hours have passed, is

only an impression.23 This is achieved by what Donald K. Gordon calls

"parallelism of ambiente,"24 that is, the story starts with a scene

of morning and ends with a similar scene which gives the impression of

being that very evening. However, within the story are two sections

in which old Esteban is in jail. These scenes take place long after

the same day in which don Justo was killed.

Rulfo, pues, nos hace retroceder, dias,
semanas, acaso largos meses; y lo ha hecho como
si no hubiera transcurrido todo este tiempo.
Nosoiros, impresionados por el patetismo del
relato, no nos hemos percatado del truco.
Nuestra mente estaba demasiado ocupada ordenando
el pequeno rompecabezas que se le habia puesto
a ordenar, y, al final del cuento, nos parecio
coincidir con el final del dia del homicidio.25

We can further observe that the "tecnica de enfoques repetidos"
observed by Rodriguez-Alcala also adds to this denial of the passage

of time. This technique consists of narrating the same events from

different angles, which means that each successive focus which is given

to an event simply occupies the same time period as what has already

been narrated. Thus time never succeeds in advancing.

Perhaps the first hint of the atemporal nature of the story comes

in the very first part, in the description of dawn. There is, in this

description, an interplay of present and preterite tenses, which

nevertheless does not disturb the unfolding of the story:

Alla lejos los cerros estan todavia en
Una golondrina cruzo las calls y luego
sono el primer toque del alba.
Las luces se apagaron. (p. 48)

This fact of coherent unfolding of the story in spite of tense

changes is reflected in the development of the story, in the parts

where Esteban's narration, from jail, is used in sequence with

authorial narration, and the thread of the story remains intact in

spite of this chronological aberration.

Most Rulfian critics see in "Luvina" a spiritual ancestor of his

novel Pedro PAramo. In the novel, the denial of the passage of time

is accomplished mainly by the fact that the characters are all dead.

The characters in "Luvina" are not dead, but nevertheless, time does

not pass there. Carlos Blanco Aguinaga has made an analysis of the

factors which Rulfo uses in his creation of an atemporal world.

According to him, in the town of Luvina almost nothing happens.

Everything there is forever, without change or movement in time. The

exterior rhythm of life has remained in suspension. Things and events

are isolated from one another, an impression which is strengthened

by the speaker's repetition, always monotonous, of ideas and phrases,
thus making the words appear to be in a timeless suspension. The

following passage, spoken by the professor who has lived in Luvina,

describes the time situation there:

--Me parece que usted me pregunto cuantos
anos estuve en Luvina, Iverdad . ? La verdad
es que no lo se. Perdi la nocion del tiempo
desde las fiebres que me lo enrevesaron; pero
debio haber sido una eternidad . . y es que
alli el tiempo es muy largo. Nadie lleva la
cuenta de las horas y a nadie le preocupa c6mo van
van amontonandose los anos. Los dias comienzan*
y se acaban. Luego viene la noche. Solamente
el dia y la noche hasta el dia de la muerte, que
para ellos es una esperanza. (p. 101)

We have already seen the relationship which exists between "Un

cuento" and Pedro Paramo. Therefore it would be natural to expect to

find a similar treatment of time in both works. However, since one of

the main factors which makes the world of the novel immune to the

passage of time, the fact that all the characters are dead, does not

figure in the development of the short story, we will have to look for

a different process which creates the atemporal world of the story.

Donald K. Gordon refers to time in "Un cuento" as a vagarious

element.28 However, it seems possible to discover a more detailed,

complete, and organized explanation of time in this story, which will

show that it is not vagarious but rather plays a definite role in the

creation of reader disorientation.

The basic process which Rulfo uses in this story to impart to the

reader a sense of the denial of time passage is the destruction of the

boundaries between past, present, and future. He begins the story

by saying "ful a Tuxcacuexco . ." (p. 104) but shortly we see him

on the road, and we experience a certain immediacy of the action; due

to a change in tense: "Ahora yo vengo en su lugar. Traigo los mismos

ojos con que ella miro las cosas . ." (p. 105).

The process is repeated throughout the story. Still on the road

to Tuxcacuexco, we read:

Senti el retrato de mi madre guardado en
la bolsa de la camisa, calentandome el corazon . .
Era un retrato viejo, carcomido en los bordes . .

Es el mismo que traigo aqui, pensando que podria
dar buen resultado para reconocerme con mi padre.
(p. 107)

In spite of the tense change, the thread of the story remains intact,

and the reader enters an atemporal world which will be the world of

the novel Pedro Paramo.

The temporal coup de grAce of the story occurs in the very last

line. It is part of a dialogue between the narrator and the muleteer

whom he had met on the road to Tuxcacuexco:

. Que paso por aquf?
Un correcaminos, senor. Asi les dicen a
esos pajaros.
No, yo preguntaba por el pueblo, que se ve
tan solo, como si estuviera abandonado. Parece
que no lo habitara nadie.
No, no es que lo parezca. Asi es. Aqui no
vive nadie.
.Y Pedro PAramo?
Pedro Paramo murio hace muchos anos. (pp. 107-108)

We have already witnessed the muleteer telling the narrator that Pedro

Paramo will be glad to see him. Now we find that Pedro Paramo has been

dead for years, a fact which can only completely disorient the reader.

The only possible explanation that can be offered is that, as we have

already seen, we are in a completely chaotic world here.

The chaotic nature of the world of the story also explains the

passage in which is described the narrator's first meeting with the

muleteer. After the narrator has been walking along and talking with

him, we read:

O0 otra vez el lahl del arriero.
Me habia encontrado con el en los Encuentros,
donde se cruzaban various caminos. Me estuve allf
esperando, hasta que al fin aparecio este hombre. *
-IA donde va usted? le pregunte.
-Voy para abajo, senor.
-4Conoce un lugar llamado Tuxcacuexo?
-Para all mismo voy.
Entonces lo segul. Me figure que era
arriero por los burros que llevaba de vacio, y me
ful detras de el. . (p. 106)

We read all of this a page after his initial conversation with the

muleteer. Although the use of the pluperfect at the beginning of the

passage seems to make a smooth transition to it, the reader suddenly

realizes that this passage chronologically is out of place. However,

chronological order has no meaning in the world of this story, in which

what seems like a normal sequence of events is unnecessary.


The results of Rulfo's time techniques are an important factor

in the creation of reader disorientation. In some stories time passes

at different speeds, in others it both passes and is suspended, and in

some stories it does not pass at all. The destruction of a more tra-

ditional view of time deceives the reader because he is expecting a

conventional depiction of it. The reader is thus forced to continually

re-evaluate the story in order to be sure he has understood it.


See notes 19 and 20 of Chapter I, p. 11.

2Edmundo Valades, "El cuento mexicano reciente," Armas y letras,
2nd Ser. (October-December 1960), p. 24.

Ramon Xirau, "Juan Rulfo, nuevo escritor de Mexico," Insula, 16,
No. 179 (October 1961), 4.

See note 24 of Chapter I, p. 11.

5Jose de la Colina, "Notas sobre Juan Rulfo," Casa de las
Americas, No. 26 (October-November 1964), pp. 135-136.

This is based on St. Augustine's idea that what happens, happens
now. "It is always an experience, idea, or thing which is 'present'.
Nevertheless, we can construct a meaningful temporal series accounting
for past and future in terms of memory and expectation." Hans
Meyerhoff, Time in Literature (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University
of California Press, 1955), p. 8.

Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, p. 69.


9Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," pp. 33-39.

C1arlos Blanco Aguinaga, pp. 69-70.

1Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," p. 72.

1Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, p. 65.

13Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," p. 68.

4Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, pp. 66-68.

1Harss and Dohmann, p. 261.

6Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," p. 221.

17Hugo Rodrfguez-Alcala, p. 41.
18Donald K. Gordon, The Short Stories of Juan Rufo, pp. 69-
Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," pp. 169-170.


19Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, pp. 65-66.

Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," p. 213.

21Ibid., p. 214.
2Ibid., p. 79.

23Hugo Rodrlguez-Alcala, p. 23.

24Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," p. 243.

25Hugo Rodriguez-Alcala, pp. 23-24.
Ibid., pp. 19-21.

27Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, pp. 63-65.

28Donald K. Gordon, "The Short Stories of Juan Rulfo," p. 151.



A basic technical element which leads to the creation of reader

disorientation is the way in which the author communicates essential

facts of the narrative to the reader. By withholding information in a

variety of ways, or introducing information at unlikely times, the

author forces the reader into greater mental effort in order to es-

tablish what is happening in the story. Sometimes it is impossible to

establish facts at all, in which case ambiguity results.

We will start our study by examining the technique of developing

the story with indefinite elements. In "Es que somos muy pobres," the

main indefinite element which appears in the story is the anonymous

narrator. Although he remains anonymous throughout the story, we do

not feel so remote from him because he supplies numerous details about

his family. This is the general trend of this story; that is, supplying

more details and withholding less.

Another indefinite element does appear in the story, however.

After the rain ruins the drying barley, the narrator says: "Lo

unico que pudimos hacer todos los de mi casa, fue. . ." (p. 31).

The todos los de mi casa is not a specific term, although it can be

observed that it is more specific than the verb alone would be, had

this subject been omitted.


An interesting use of an indefinite element is found in "El

hombre." The element is the destination of both the hombre and his

pursuer. The facts are known to them but are never divulged to the

reader. The pursuer's knowledge of the hombre's destination is not

shared with the reader:

"Me se de memorial tus intenciones, quien eres
y de d6nde eres y adonde vas. Llegare antes
que tu llegues. (p. 40)

The hombre also speaks of his destination without telling where it is:

Tengo que estar al otro lado, donde no
me conocen, donde nunca he estado y nadie
sabe de mi, luego caminare derecho, hasta
llegar. (pp. 40-41)

These references can confuse the reader and make him wonder if perhaps

more specific facts had been given out previously and he somehow missed


In "En la madrugada," there is a notable absence of indefinite or

incomplete elements which would serve to interfere with the reader's

apprehension of the story. The only exception is the name of the

central character, who is always referred to as el viejo Esteban, with.

no more description than that. However, this is typical of Rulfo, as

is the lack of physical description of the characters. It is also

possible that the lack of a more complete name for the protagonist is

less noticed due to the previous story, in which the characters were

totally nameless for most of the story. However, the fact that the

story is apparently being presented in a straightforward manner is in

itself a source of disorientation, distracting the reader's attention

from the other elements which combine to create ambiguity and confusion,

such as the subtle changes in point of view and the disguised time

sequences already studied.

"El llano en llamas" begins with frequent references to nosotros,

without explaining who is included in this group. In opposition to

this amorphous mass is another one, ellos. Even within nosotros, the

individuals are el Chihuila, la Perra and los Cuatro, none of which

nicknames aid in relieving the reader's impression of incompleteness.

This is maintained throughout most of the narrative, and even where

individual deeds are described, such as in the juego al toro (pp. 76-

78), it is against a background of nosotros.

By starting "Luvina" with "de los cerros altos del sur, el de

Luvina es el mas alto y el mas pedregoso," the author manages to create

a nebulous, indefinite setting. He is using a relative term, sur,

without giving an adequate point of reference. He also refers to

los cerros altos, as if the reader were familiar with the area and

would immediately recognize it, which of course is not the case, thus

leaving the reader puzzled as to which high peaks to the south of

what he is referring to. This latter question is somewhat cleared up

once the reader realizes that the narrator is first person and not

third; thus it would be assumed, to the south of where the narrator

and:his listener are. Nevertheless, the feeling that one gets from

the start, of being in a sort of limbo, is carried through the entire


The character-narrator of "Luvina" is referred to as el hombre

or el hombre aquel by the omniscient narrator. He in turn refers to

the listener as senor. We know absolutely nothing of them, except

that the narrator lived a long time in Luvina and was a teacher there,

and the listener is on his way to Luvina now. The lack of any further

information about them tends to make the reader ignore them and focus

his attention on the vision of Luvina.

Indefinite elements are employed only minimally in the development

of "Acuerdate." In this story, such impersonal expressions as "se

dice," "dicen que," "lo detuvieron," and others, are used frequently.

However, these have little effect in leading the reader astray since

this type of expression is common in everyday speech. Further, in an

expression like "lo expulsaron de la escuela" (p. 112) or "lo

detuvieron en el camino" (p. 11.3) it is unnecessary to tell precisely

who these subjects are, and from the content the reader gets a suf-

ficiently complete idea of who they would be.

Perhaps the most interesting occurrence of an indefinite element

occurs in "No oyes ladrar los perros." Hugo Rodrlguez-Alcala has

already written on this:

Caracteristico de los paisajes de Rulfo
es la repentina mencion de alguna realidad--cual-
quiera--del mundo exterior como si ya la cono-
ciera el lector desde antes, como si el lector
estuviera frente a un paisaje conocido. Pero
sucede que este paisaje no se ha descrito todavia,
que aun no se le ha presentado.
Un ejemplo: al final de la primera pagina
del cuento leemos:

El viejo se fue reculando hasta en-
contrarse con el paredon y se recargo allf
sin soltar la carga de sus hombros . .

lQue pared6n es este? No lo sabemos. Es,
sin embargo, "el" paredon, asi, con articulo de-
finido: el que nosotros muy por nuestra cuenta
debemos figurarnoslo en el paraje que sospecha-
mos pedregoso . .1

In spite of the reference to this wall with a definite article, it is

quite indefinite; we have no description of it other than the fact

that it is el paredon.

The indefinite elements of "Paso del Norte" do not, for the most

part, produce any effect of reader disorientation. This is due to the

use of the two interlocutors, the second of whom questions the first

about his statement, thus clarifying immediately any vagueness.

-Me voy lejos padre, por eso vengo a darle el
1Y pa Ande te vas, si se puede saber?
Me Yoy pal Norte.
IY alli pos pa que? (p. 119)

The outstanding exception to this is the father's reference to

his daughter, then the words "que en paz descanse" (p. 120). We are

never given any more information regarding her, although the reader

cannot help wondering about the circumstances of her early death.

"La vida no es muy seria en sus cosas" starts with an extremely

misleading statement: "Aquella cuna donde Crispin dormia por entonces,

era mas que grande para su pequeno cuerpecito" (p. 35). The cuna

becomes confusing when, in the next line, we read "aun no nacia," and

we realize that the cuna to which he refers is metaphorical. The por

entonces is a very indefinite element which makes the reader curious

as to when the entonces is.

There are two places in "Un cuento" where an indefinite ellos is

used to unfocus or blur an actual character of the narrative. The

first occurs just as the story begins: "Fui a Tuxcacuexco porque me

dijeron que alli vivia mi padre, un tal Pedro Paramo. Mi madre me lo

dijo" (p. 104). The other one occurs while the narrator is on the road

with the muleteer: "- .Y a que va usted a Tuxcacuexco, si se puede

saber? of que me preguntaban" (p. 105). In each case, he cites one

specific speaker, but yet also refers to each with a plural verb form.

In this way he tends to unfocus or blur the characters involved.

When the narrator tells us "caminabamos cuesta abajo, oyendo el

trote rebotado de los burros" (p. 105) we are somewhat surprised by

the reference to los burros, which have not yet appeared anywhere in

the narrative. We do not know what burros he is talking about. This

process is similar to the one described by Rodriguez-Alcala in regard

to landscapes, except here we have not a landscape but a burro.

In "La herencia de Matilde Arcangel" we find the use of indefinite

and unidentified elements is more sustained throughout the narrative

than is the case in "El dia del derrumbe" and other stories. This

indicates greater reliance, in "La herencia de Matilde Arcangel,"

upon this method of creating reader disorientation than is the case

in other stories.

The narrator makes reference to nosotros but never explains who

are included in this group. Especially puzzling is his statement,

after he has narrated Matilde's death, that "ya para entonces no era

de nosotros" (p. 59). Apparently, the nosotros is the same group of

unidentified muleteers to which he referred on the preceding page.

However, his use of the plural is somewhat strange here, due to the

fact that, although Matilde was friendly with all the muleteers that

visited her mother's inn, she was engaged at the time to the narrator.

In his statement "la enterramos" (p. 59) it is unclear as to who

is the subject of the verb. It could be the narrator and the husband,

or those two plus other unknowns. The whole process of burial is

summed up so quickly in those two short words that the reader feels

vagueness about the event due to the lack of details, almost as if it

never really happened. Since the father and son of the story did not

get along, later in life, the narrator did not have many dealings with

them. He knew about them "porque me lo contaron" (p. 61). We do not

know if the subject of this verb is "unas cuantas animas" who earlier

(p. 61) were mentioned (without being identified) as having taken pity

on the boy, or not.

The revoltosos who pass through the town (p. 61) are also sketch-

ily identified by the narrators: "Quien sabe que clase de revoltosos

serian y que andarian haciendo."

"El dia del derrumbe" has as its first line a very uninformative

statement: "Esto paso en septiembre" (p. 3). Of course, as the story

is just beginning, the reader does not expect to be fully in touch

with all of its elements, or even with its essential elements. One

expects a certain lack of clarity. However, esto is probably the most

indefinite subject which the author could have chosen. Had he used

el derrumbe, esta aventura or even esto que voy a narrar, there would

have been a certain vagueness upon which he then could elaborate as

the story unfolded. Esto is as totally noncommital a word as he could

have chosen. Even the fact that the title is "El dia del derrumbe"

does not necessarily relate esto to that title, in view of the varied

functions of titles.

As can be seen from the preceding pages, the use of indefinite

or unidentified elements is greater in some stories than in others.

In some stories, it is the initial technique which Rulfo uses to start

the reader disorientation. Then other processes are used to maintain

the effect. In other stories indefinite or unidentified elements are

used more, but this never is the main device which Rulfo employs in

creating uncertainty or vagueness.

We will now study.information which is withheld from the reader

beyond the point at which its introduction might be considered logical.

Sometimes this information serves to clarify indefinites, such as in

"La noche que lo dejaron solo," and other times it is an event, a large

piece of the puzzle which has been missing.

As one reads "Macario," one wonders to whom (if anyone) the mono-

logue is directed, or what is its purpose. There is no plot develop-

ment leading to a climax, no lesson to be learned from the story. This

information is not revealed until the very end of the story:

Ahora estoy junto a la alcantarilla esperando a
que salgan las ranas. Y no ha salido ninguna en
todo este rato que llevo platicando. Si tardan
mas en salir, puede suceder que me duerma, y luego
no habra modo de matarlas, y a mi madrina no le
llegara por ningin lado el sueno si las oye cantar,
y se llenara de coraje. Y entonces le pedira,
a alguno de toda la hilera de santos que tiene
en su cuarto, que made a los diablos por mi,
para que me lleven a rastras a la condenacion
eterna, derechito, sin pasar di siquiera por el
purgatorio, y yo no no podre ver entonces ni a mi
papa ni a mi mama, que es alli donde estan . .
Mejor seguire platicando . . (p. 14)


From the length of this passage it can be seen that, even as Rulfo

starts to reveal this important information, he puts it off for as long

as possible by interposing as much material as he can. It is almost

as if he begrudges giving the reader any important information at all.

The reader may also have wondered about the boy's parents. The

only relative which is mentioned throughout the story is his godmother.

Finally it is revealed that his natural parents are dead, which is

actually a minor corollary to the more important justification for the


In "Nos han dado la tierra" we find many references to and criti-

cisms of the land. The reason for this is not clear until we read

"a nosotros nos dieron esta costra de tepetate para que la sembraramos"

(p. 17). We'still.do not know who gave the land, but shortly el

delegado and. el gobierno (pp. 17-18) are introduced, thus making the

story clear.

The narrator of "La cuesta de las comadres" gives a great deal of

information about the Torricos, including the fact that they are dead,

without even hinting at his relationship with their deaths. He finally

reveals that it was he who killed one of the brothers, Remigio, and in

telling how that came about, he reveals that he was present at the

slaying of the other brother, Odil6n. He also withholds from Remigio

the information about Odilon's death until .after Remigio has accused

him (the narrator) of having murdered Odilon.

In the final scenes of the story, when the narrator and Remigio

Torrico have their confrontation, we are told that Remigio suspects

the narrator of having.murdered his brother Odil6n Torrico. We are not

told why till later,however, when Remigio suggests that the protagonist

killed his brother in order to rob him (p. 28).

The revelation that the narrator killed Remigio is the central

event of the story. Its sudden and unexpected presentation, with no

preparation of the reader for such a revelation, demands a recounting

of the events leading up to it. The sudden and unexpected nature of

this revelation disconcerts the reader, who has been trying to follow

as carefully as possible the wandering thread of the story up to that


In "Es que somos muy pobres," we are given no reference to the

calf whose mother, apparently, was carried off by the river, until

after we realize the story's main tragedy, the loss of the narrator's

sister's dowry. With the calf, his sister's last hope, he brings into

the story his mother, and two other sisters who became prostitutes

through economic necessity. All these facts, central to the tragedy

of the family in this story, are held back by the narrator until after

the point where they logically would be needed. The result is that

the reader starts expecting the story to be told around the theme of

the flood, when in fact the flood is only the background to a greater

tragedy for this family.

In Part I of "El hombre," the reader is given a situation, that

of one man in deadly pursuit of another, but is not told why it exists

nor who the principals are. The constant reference to the characters

as el hombre and el que lo seguia, withholding their names until much

later in the story, maintains a feeling of distance from the story, as

if these were not really people at all. This is reinforced by the lack

of physical description, typical of Rulfo, and the association, es-

pecially of the hombre, with animals: "Los pies del hombre se

hundieron en la arena como si fueran la pezuna de algin animal (p. 37).

The situation which is presented as the story opens, that of one

man stalking another, is at first ambiguous and raises many questions

regarding the circumstances which have brought about this situation.

Slowly the relationship between the two is revealed by menacing com-

ments such as "as{ que sera fAcil," or "el ansia deja huellas siempre.

Eso lo perdera" (p. 37)-

The reasons for the enmity between the two are likewise revealed

slowly, but the constant omission of subject pronouns successfully

attenuates our understanding of the relationship involved:

El que lo persegula dijo: "Hizo un buen
trabajo. Ni siquiera los desperto. Debio lIegar
a eso de la una. . ." (p. 38)

This is not clarified until the second part, where a new narrator, a

shepherd, explains that the hombre murdered the family of his pursuer.

"IDice usted que.mato a todita la familiar de los Urquidi?" (p. 45).

From the descriptions given on p. 38 and p. 39, the reader would not be

able to understand the facts that the shepherd later tells him.

A similar situation is to be found in the hombre's statement that

"no debi matarlos a todos; me hubiera conformado con el que tenia que

matar" (p. 40). Again, the reader does not know why he had to kill

anyone, nor who the person is. This is clarified by his pursuer later,

who explains that he (the pursuer) murdered the hombre's brother

(p. 41).

Finally, as Donald K. Gordon has shown, the shepherd's finding

the hombre with bullet holes in the neck confirms the threat that his

assassin made to kill him in that manner (p. 38).

As the shepherd speaks, we do not realize that he has a listener

till we see him address the listener as senor licenciado (p. 44). Then

we not only realize that there is a listener, but that he is a judge.

The shepherd's attitude in the judge's presence is apologetic, a fact

which is clarified by the following: ".De modo que ora que vengo a

decirle lo que se, yo salgo encubridor?" (p. 46). The judge has

accused him of collaborating with the fugitive and has threatened to

jail him because of it.

We listen to Esteban's monologues, in "En la madrugada," not

knowing what-his perspective on the story is. The lack of such know-

ledge is not noticed since the unfolding of events is in a logical

sequence. However, we then read "desde el moment que me tienen aqui

en la carcel . ." and suddenly realize that the narrator is in

jail, a fact formerly withheld.

Fundamental to understanding the tragedy of "Talpa" is knowing

the relationship that exists between the characters. This information

is kept from the reader, even as the narrator tells us "a Tanilo Santos

entire Natalia y yo lo matamos" (p. 55). Shortly after this, we read

"la idea de ir a Talpa sallo de mi hermano Tanilo" (p. 56). In this

way, we are informed that the narrator killed his own brother. What

we still do not know is that Natalia is Tanilo's wife, a fact which is

included later. By keeping this information from the reader, even as

he tells about burying Tanilo, he misleads the reader as to the nature

of the story which he is about to tell. When the narrator suggests and

then clearly indicates his adulterous relationship with his sister-in-

law, we are given the motive for their desire to kill Tanilo Santos.

It is these facts which contribute to the particularly unpleasant

theme of this story.

IEl llano en llamas" begins with the shout: "iViva Petronila

Floresi" (p. 66). When the shout is repeated a few lines later, a

slight change in it communicates vital information: "IViva mi general

Petropilo Floresi" We now know considerably more about the situation

which is unfolding than we did before.

The introduction of the narrator's name does not come until nearly

one-fourth of the way through the story where we read: "- lEpa tu,

Pichon!" (p. 70). The reader also does not know the identity of the

two armed groups which are opposing each other until he reads "no

supieron decirnos si ya se hubieran retirado los federales" (p. 70).

The fact that the narrator was in jail is never mentioned until

very matter-of-factly he refers to "uno que estuvo conmigo en la

carcel" (p. 83). This surprises the reader, partly because of the

sudden change from the adventures of Pedro Zamora and his bandits

which it marks.

The dialogue with which "IDiles que no me maten!" begins offers

no identification of the characters, other than just a name. The

reader continues, searching for a clue that will explain something

about why this situation exists and who the characters are. When he

reads: "segin eso, yo soy tu hijo" (p. 85), the relationship is now

known but the name of the father is lacking. This is given on p. 86 in

the explanation of the events leading up to the situation presented in

the dialogue: "al que el, Juvencio Nava, tuvo que matar . .

All through the story we know that Juvencio is going to be killed.

We are told about his murder of Lupe Terreros some thirty-five years

earlier, which is somehow connected with the fact that now Juvencio

is going to be killed. What we do not know is who has captured

Juvencio, a fact which comes out on p. 91 and is the climax of the

story. His captor says:

Guadalupe Terreros era mi padre. Cuando
creci y lo busque me dijeron que estaba muerto.
Es dificil crecer sabiendo que la cosa de donde
podemos agarrarnos para enraizar esta muerta.
Con nosotros, eso paso. (p. 91)

This revelation explains why Juvencio has been taken prisoner, why he

is being subjected to mental torture, and why he will be killed, in

spite of his advanced age and relative innocuousness.

The principal element of "Luvina" is the atmosphere of the story

itself, thus the author suppresses any information which does not con-

tribute to it, leaving the characters as two quasi-blanks. The nar-

rator, we eventually learn, was a teacher in Luvina for many years

(p. 102). His listener, we eventually find out, is about to go to

Luvina, a fact which justifies the story (p. 96).

In this story we again encounter the introduction of nos and

nosotros with no identification of who is included in the group. The

narrator starts telling of his first trip to Luvina and, with no

warning, changes from first person singular to plural. The reader has

no way of determining who these people are until later when the nar-

rator says "nosotros, mi mujer y mis tres hijos, nos quedamos allf"

(p. 98). Shortly after this, he introduces the wife's name.

In "La noche que lo dejaron solo," the reasons for the characters'

actions are not stated until after they are needed, preventing the

reader from fully understanding the reasons for what is happening.

Feliciano is travelling with "los de adelante." We do not even

know how many they are until near the end of the story, nor any details

about them. They are in a hurry and do not wish anyone to see them,

but we also do not know the reasons for this. A statement such as

"Es mejor que este oscuro. As n n a n veran" (p. 105) may arouse the

reader's curiosity about who will not see them and why, but since no

answer is forthcoming until the end of the story, he is forced to wait

and see.

When we read, concerning Feliciano: "ICristol dijo. Y ya iba a

gritar: IViva Cristo Reyl . . "(p. 108) we are now in a position to

see the story as more complete. This revelation tells us much about

Feliciano, his companions, and who it is that they fear will catch


Finally we are told, on p. 108, that Feliciano "pudo verlos mejor,

reconocerles la cara: eran ellos, su tio Tanis y su tio Librado,"

we now know who his travelling companions were. Formerly they were

just ellos, or los de adelante.

The final revelation of important information substitutes again

for a climax and causes all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into

place. This occurs when one of the soldiers says: "Dicen que el que

falta es un muchachito, pero muchachito y todo fue el que le tendio la

emboscada a mi teniente Parra y le acabo su gente" (p. 108). This is

said as the soldiers view the hanged uncles of Feliciano and are

awaiting his arrival to hang him also.

"Acuerdate" begins with a long and very detailed genealogy of the

characters involved. However, when the reader tries to visualize the

relationships involved, he discovers that the apparent completeness of

the description is only an illusion, and that the author has withheld

just enough information to make it impossible, for the moment, to

determine the actual relationships involved. A series of unexplained

indefinite elements keeps the reader's total apprehension of the facts

an elusive goal.

Acuerdate de Urbano Gomez, hijo de don Urbano4 nieto
de Dimas, aquel que dirigia las pastorelas, y que murfo
recitando el "rezonga angel maldito" cuando la epoca
de la influencia. De.esto ya hace anos. Pero te. debes
de acordar de el. Acuerdate que le decfamos el abuelo
por aquello de que su otro hijo, Fidencio Gomez, tenia.
dos hijas muy juguetonas: una . que le' decan
La Arremangada y otra.. ... (p. 110)

Indefinite elements, such as the "el" of the fifth line and the "su"

of the seventh, although they seem to make sense,.erect a barrier.

between the story and the careful reader who tries to align all the

relationships. It would appear that these two words refer to Urbano

Gomez (don Urbano's son), while in reality they are referring to don

Urbano himself. This fact, however, cannot be established until later

in the story when we are told that la Arremangada is Urbano's cousin,

and Fidencio Gomez is his uncle (p. 112). The addition of this new

knowledge allows the reader to clarify what otherwise was somewhat

out of focus.

In "Anacleto Morones," the narrator tells us clearly that he has

some information which is vital to understanding the development of the

story, but withholds this information as long as possible.

As the story opens, the narrator-protagonist sees a group of women

heading for his farmstead and he starts making disparaging remarks about

them. He immediately tells us: "sabfa lo que andaban haciendo y a

quien buscaban. Por eso me d{ prisa a esconderme hasta el fondo del

corral . ." (p. 127). Likewise, the women tell him: "te venimos

a ver a ti .. ." (p. 127), and "-Traemos un encargo . ." (p.

128), but none of this is explained, thus forcing the reader to con-

tinue reading, trying to find the explanation of these facts in the

pages that follow. Because such an explanation is not forthcoming,

the reader may begin to wonder if he has indeed missed it. The

reader may almost feel that they are beginning to play with him when

they almost (but not quite) tell what they want: "-Pues se trata de

esto . .. Pero no te vayas a molestar en darnos de comer" (p. 129).

They go on from here, and never return to explain what they have come


Finally, on p. 134, we are told that the women want our protagon-

ist to return to town with them to testify to the "miraculous" deeds

of one Anacleto Morones, in order to help their campaign to have him

canonized as a saint.

The dialogue which begins p. 105 of "Un cuento" is actually the

second part of a dialogue whose first part does not appear until

p. 106. In the preface to the first part, the other interlocutor is

introduced. This is information which logically should precede the

whole dialogue, and its tardy introduction forces the reader to relate

it to its second part, already given, in order for the story to make

sense. This method of giving the second part of the dialogue before

the first part underscores the atemporal nature of the story.

The opening paragraphs of "Un pedazo de noche" prove confusing

due to the fact that no hint is ever given that the narrator is a

female. This is hinted at in the second paragraph, but not until she

makes a reference to her husband can the reader be sure. Then what

precedes this revelation begins to make more sense.

The story starts immediately with a reference to the initiation

ritual of tronar la nuez, which Donald K. Gordon notes is to be under-

stood only by the initiated. The meaning of this expression is never

clarified in the story. Right after mentioning it, the narrator states:

"No quiero decir en que consistia aquello, porque todavia, calculando

que no me quede ni un pedazo de vergienza, hay algo dentro de mi que

busca desbaratar los malos recuerdos" (p. 7). This statement and

several of those which follow it, such as "yo estaba entonces en mis

comienzos" (p. 7), which the reader does not have sufficient information

to understand, show that the narrator has again assumed that the reader

has some information which in fact he does not have. The result is

that the reader has to make greater effort in order to follow the

development of the story than would be the case if he were given the

needed information.

The opening statement "Alguien me aviso que en el callejon de

Valerio Trujano habia un campo libre" (p. 7) also helps lead the reader

into a situation which he needs to disentangle due to the alguien and

the lack of hints regarding the campo libre. The reader's inability

to understand is compounded by the fact that he does not yet know that

the narrator is a female, a unique situation in Rulfo's stories.

Another interesting, although little-used technique, is that of

introducing an important element of the story along with several un-

important ones, giving the same apparent degree of importance to each.

The significance of this important element is not made clear until

later. This technique is very nearly the inverse of the first tech-

nique which was discussed in this chapter in which often the reader

recognizes that the indefinite element could help increase his appre-

hension of the story. Here we are given an element which goes

unrecognized as essential.

The first story in which Rulfo uses the technique is "La Cuesta

de las Comadres." The narrator tells how the Torricos used to come to

his cabin and spend hours looking toward the road to Zapotlan. He

then discusses Remigio's one eye and how it had a great range of view.

Without giving any explanation, he tells how, when the eye teniaa en

quien recargar la mirada," the two brothers would disappear for a while

(p. 23). The subject then abruptly changes and a long discourse

follows on changing economic fortunes of the area, each section of

approximately the same length. One would assume that each section is

of the same importance in the development of the story, and no way is

given to establish that the first part is essentially a thread of the

narrative and the other not.

This process is again used in the final scenes of the narrative.

Remigio Torrico has come to the narrator's shack to accuse him of

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