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Discuss critically why Juan Rulfo makes use of a fragmentary narrative structure in his novel Pedro Páramo

Discuss critically why Juan Rulfo makes use of a fragmentary narrative structure in his novel Pedro Páramo

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Tracy Allen. Originally submitted for SP4223 Language, History and Culture at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr. Eleni Kefala in the category of Languages & Linguistics
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Tracy Allen. Originally submitted for SP4223 Language, History and Culture at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr. Eleni Kefala in the category of Languages & Linguistics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Discuss critically why Juan Rulfo makesuse of a fragmentary narrative structure inhis novel
 Pedro Páramo
 
Abstract:The fragmentary narrative structure of 
 Pedro Páramo
is its most striking element and haskept critics intrigued since its publication. Examination of the novel reveals that the structurerelates to its content, themes and context. Taking as a starting point the reasons given by JuanRulfo himself for the fragmented structure – 1) to engage the reader, 2) to depict theatemporal world of the dead, 3) to show life for what it is: chaos and disorder – this essayaims to demonstrate how essential the structure is to the novel and how a more traditionalnarrative would not have produced the same effect. A range of critical opinions are given, aswell as precise examples from the text itself and other short stories by Juan Rulfo. As regardscontext, the novel can be read on a personal, national and universal level as representing JuanRulfo's solitude, the chaotic socio-political situation in Mexico, and the existential problemsfaced by mankind. Given that the living dead form the basis of the narration, Rulfo creates ahopeless eternal present echoed in the closed structure of the novel. With death at the centreof the novel, a chronological sequencing is unnecessary and would even detract from thenarrative, as the revelation of Juan Preciado’s death makes the idea of the “present”redundant, and the “future” impossible. Time is negated throughout
 Pedro Páramo
,removing the possibility of progress and enclosing the narrative in a circular time loop. In
 Llano en llamas
Juan Rulfo began to experiment with the innovative narrative techniques thatwere to dominate
 Pedro Páramo
, such as allusion and partial character knowledge, as seen in'En la madrugada' and the episode concerning Aldrete in the novel. Fragmentation focusesthe narrative on the essential moments and makes explanations unnecessary. As opposed to atraditional narrative, multiple perspectives, a blurred vision of reality and the disappearanceof the narrator allow a new and more objective reality to emerge. The conclusion is that thefragmentary narrative structure is the essence of 
 Pedro Páramo
, as only a broken narrativecould capture the atmosphere of a broken world where not even the boundary between lifeand death remains. To illustrate this further a comparison is drawn with Picasso's
Guernica
as both works challenge reality, destroy time and include multiple perspectives. Just as the painting's fractured frozen image depicts the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and the pain of the victims of the bombing from multiple angles at once, the novel's fragmentary structure presents the circular and eternal present of those ruined by the cacique, seen from various perspectives even within a single fragment. Traditional means could not reproduce modernreality, making the fragmented structure the basis for the meaning of the novel.Key words: Pedro Páramo; Rulfo (Juan); fragmentary narrative structure; traditionalnarrative; eternal present
 
The fragmentary narrative structure of 
 Pedro Páramo
is what links all of the elements of the book together and gives it a profound and lasting effect. It relates to the content, the themesand the context of the novel. Without this structure it would not have been a novel thatcaused critics to be so intrigued by its meaning. Rulfo himself stated that his aims inimplementing a seemingly broken structure were to “engage” the reader, depict the atemporalworld of the dead, and show life for what it is: chaos and disorder.
1
Furthermore, he couldnot have achieved the aforementioned objectives using a traditional narrative.The structure of the novel is perplexing the first time we enter the world of Comala.The struggle to unravel the mysteries within the segmented plot holds the reader’s interestand keeps us guessing as quite often we are even unsure of who is speaking. Fragment 41 begins ‘Estoy acostada en la misma cama donde murió mi madre’ and only the next fragmentmentions that it is Susana.
2
 Thus, from the evidence of the partial narrators the story must bereassembled in our minds so that we fathom the message of the novel. According toElizabeth Sánchez, as with fractals, a recognisable and somewhat symmetrical form is hiddenin the structure.
3
As detectives, certain recurring elements can be taken as clues to follow thetrail of the plot. Rain becomes associated with Pedro’s past, as fragments 8, 37, 47 and 49evoke ‘la lluvia’. Similarly, the thread of conversation continues after a temporal gapthrough the repetition of the last phrase or idea mentioned. Fragment 11 ends with ‘Más tevale’ and fragment 17 begins with this statement (pp.85; 93). Discovering these links givesthe reader a sense of satisfaction, as despite the chaotic temporal ordering, it is possible not toget lost in the limbo of the wandering souls.Readers attempt to (re)order fragments and view Juan Preciado as a “stable” narrator.Being ‘dislodged’ from this supposed stability in fragment 36 pushes the reader away fromthe mindset for traditional literature and towards Rulfo’s world.
4
Rulfo aims for the reader to participate in the novel, and consequently, to learn about the nature of reality (Beardsell: 82).Forced to abandon all logic at the entrance to the world of magical realism, where the dead
1 Beardsell “Pedro Páramo”.
 Landmarks in Modern Latin American Fiction
. Ed. Philip Swanson, pp.74-95(London: Routledge, 1990), pg. 82. Hereafter (Beardsell: page)2 Rulfo,
 Pedro Páramo
, Ed. González Boixo (Madrid: Cátedra, 2003), pg. 133. Hereafter text (page)introduction (Boixo: page)3 Sánchez, “The Fractal Structure of ‘Pedro Páramo’: Comala, When Will You Rest?”
 Hispania,
Vol. 86, No.2, pp.231-236 (2003), pg. 232. Hereafter (Sánchez: page)4 Clark D’Lugo, “Pedro Páramo: The Reader’s Journey through the Text”,
Confluencia
, Vol.7, No.2, pp.157-162(1992), pg. 471. Hereafter (Clark: page)

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