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The theme of Christianity in Juan Rulfo's novel 'Pedro Páramo'

The theme of Christianity in Juan Rulfo's novel 'Pedro Páramo'

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Alan Smyth. Originally submitted for Latin American Literature and Culture Ii at National University of Ireland Maynooth, with lecturer Dr Catherine Leen in the category of Languages & Linguistics
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Alan Smyth. Originally submitted for Latin American Literature and Culture Ii at National University of Ireland Maynooth, with lecturer Dr Catherine Leen in the category of Languages & Linguistics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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In Juan Rulfo’s
Pedro Páramo
the title character is the wealthy landowner of the town of Comala who has inherited the position of cacique subsequent to the death of his own fatherDon Lucas. It appears however, that the Páramos have not achieved their powerful positionsby just means. Instead they have done so by placing themselves above the law. They havestolen land, ignored financial debts and used violence against anyone who has crossedthem. This is evident when Pedro Páramo discusses his affairs with his lawyer Don Fulgor -
“Cuales leyes , Fulgor? La ley de ahora en adelante la vamos a hacer nosotros” (p.78).As Iwill explain in the following paragraphs Pedro Páramo’s actions force the people of Comala
into a life of sin. I will argue that their happiness can only come in the form of absolutionwhich can liberate them from the guilt that is attributed to their sin. By analysing the novel(particularly its final pages) I aim to discover whether or not Pe
dro Páramo’s actions
havepermanently destroyed the possibility of a happy world. I will also examine how theportrayal of Pedro Páramo is linked to religious images including that of God the Fatheraccording to Christian tradition.Unpardoned sin and the resulting torture of guilt prevent happiness in Comala. One of theways in which Perdo Páramo is responsible for this is through his controlling of FatherRenteria. Pedro has corrupted this priest who easily succumbs to the temptation of wealth.
He absolves Pedro’s son Miguel Páramo for a price despite
the fact that Miguel hasmurdered his brother. At the same time he refuses to absolve the good hearted DoñaEduvijes whose hard life as a single parent drove her to suicide. Her sister María Dyadacannot afford to buy the necessary prayers which can absolve the soul of Eduvijes .The
priest states “de los pobres no consigo nada; las oraciones no llenan el estómago”(p.67).This demonstrates how Renteria’s values have been compromised by Pedro Páramo.
As a result Comala is transformed into a purgatory where poor souls are forced to remainwithout the possibility of the happiness that Rulfo associates with absolution.Like many of the inhabitants of Comala Father Renteria
realizes his own sins but hasn’t the
strength to overcome them
“Todo esto que su
cede es por mi culpa
se dijo
tracionado a aquellos que me quieren y que me han dado su fe y me buscan para que yo
intercede por ellos para con Dios.”(
p.67). He fails to gain absolution from a fellow priestwho directly addresses P
edro Páramo’s corruption o
f Renteria and Comala -
“ese hombre de
quien no quieres mencionar su nombre ha despedazado tu Iglesia y tú se lo has
p.110). He
goes on to suggest how it is possible to overcome Pedro Páramo “El
pecado no es bueno. Y para acabar con él,
hay que ser duro y despiadado”
(p.111). Even ashe seeks forgiveness Renteria remains under the influence of his master by refusing to
reveal Pedro’s
identity. This demonstrates the
strength of Don Pedro’s corrupt grip
onComala and makes us realize that Renter
ia’s fellow priest was correct
to say that it will beextremely difficult to overcome Pedro Páramo and create a happy world. For as long asPe
dro Páramo controls Father Renteria the townspeople will remain as unpardoned “almasen pena”
(p.71) without the possibility of a existing in a happy world.Rulfo distorts a number of Christian ideas in the novel. One example of this is how theauthor links Pedro Páramo to the idea of God the Father. The power he has over Comalaresembles the power of God. Pedro controls life and can simply cross his arms and the townwill die of hunger
“me cruzare de brazos y Comala se morirá de hambre” (
p.160). Rulfocreates a sense of unity between Pedro and his son Miguel which moulds the two into asingle image. This idea echoes the religious belief that God the Father and Jesus Christ areone and the same person. When Don Fulgor informs Pedro Páramo that his son has killed
someone Pedro’s response is “hazte a la idea de que fui yo”
(p.103).This shows how Miguelis
an extension of his father’s
corrupt personality. Miguel’s actions mirror Don Pedro’s
as heuses those around him for his own benefit. We are told that Miguel tries to come up with away to take advantage of Dorotea -
“despues se quedó pensando si aquella
mujer no leserviria por algo
” (p
.103). As has been noted previously Don Pedro similarly takes advantageof Father Renteria. He also uses el Tilcuate to protect himself from the threat of therevolutionaries as well as using the bodies of many women for his own physical pleasure.
Pedro’s selfish reaction to Don Fulgor’s death proves this po
int further -
“habia dado de sí 
todo lo que tení 
a que dar” (
p.136). Considering that Don Fulgor has served the Páramos formany years we realize the extremity of Pe
s disregard for those from whom he cannot
benefit. The reader is also made aware that Pedro Páramo’s father Lucas shared similar
traits to both Pedro and Miguel. He ignored his financial debts and disregarded others.Perhaps Don Lucas completes the making of a corrupt Holy Trinity.Although he retains godlike powers over the town of Comala Pedro Páramo also possessescharacteristics which are in direct opposition to the Christian idea of God the Father. His lustfor women is a quality which reflects Christian ideas of the Devil rather than of God. In the
same manner that Rentería recognizes his own state of sin the women that sleep with thePáramos realize that they are being corrupted but cannot overcome temptation.Temptation itself is an idea linked to that of the Devil according to Christianity and thecacique is a master of temptation. Damiana regrets not taking the opportunity to sleep withDon Pedro when she was younger and envies Margarita as Pedro sneaks through herwindow during the night. It seems that age has rendered Damiana useless to his lustful eyes.This highlights the point that the cacique treats those around him like non renewableresources that are used and then cast aside. Susana San Juan also admits to her father thatshe would be prepared to sleep with Pedro even though she is aware of his womanisingways. As discussed in the previous paragraph Miguel appears to be one and the same as
Pedro. As Father Renteria’s niece Ana recalls her “rape”
at the hands of Miguel it seems asthough she did not resist all that much, thus indicating the possibility that she desired him.The Páramos are tempting the townspeople into a life of sin while at the same time refusingthen access to absolution and guilt-free happiness -
inguno de los que todavía vivimosestá
en gracia de Dios” (p
. 90).The possibility of a happy world can only be achieved whenthese people are pardoned of their sin and this is unlikely to happen so long as PedroPáramo is acting as cacique.In
Pedro Páramo: A Vision of hope
Alan S. Bell refers to Pedro Páramo as the
“God of Comala” (
1966: 243).This could be misinterpreted to mean that Pedro Páramo is a directrepresentation of God the Father. It is important to note, however, that Bell alsodistinguishes the cacique from God by saying that Don Pedro
“rejects God with vehemence”
(p.244). With this distinction in mind I argue that Pedro Páramo is not God but rather he ist
he usurper of God’s authority over
Comala who has since corrupted the land created byHim. Bell confirms this po
int when he states that “Rentería is no longer God’s messenger,but the minister of Páramo” (
.244). Susana’s cooperation with the priest would thereforebe “a symbol of Susana’s complete and
final acceptance of the caciqu
e” (p
. 244) and not of God as would normally be the case when someone engages in prayer. According to Christiantradition God the Father gives us free will. Pedro Páramo obstructs this free will bycontrolling people and this further distinguishes the images of the cacique and God.
Susana’s rejection of Pedro highlights the importance of free will and
independent action.This is also where the hope of the novel lies as it shows that Don Pedro can be defeated by

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