Pedro Paramo

Pedro Paramo Summary and Analysis of Page 20 – Page 41


Back in Pedro's youth, the young boy recalls the last day he saw Susana as he babysits the son of his employer, the local telegraph clerk. Pedro's grandmother finds him daydreaming and demands he work, and when he insists he is not getting paid, she tells him to learn patience in hopes that he can one day be the boss. He insists "others [should] be patient" (20).

In Juan's present, he hears a sudden noise, and doña Eduviges tells him it's the sound of Miguel Páramo's horse, which "roams the countryside, looking for him" (21). Juan does not believe the sound he heard resembled a horse's gallop, but she ignores him. After a while, she tells the story of the night Miguel Páramo died. She was alone in bed when she heard the horse gallop towards the Media Luna, and was surprised because Miguel usually spent the night with a woman in a nearby town. Shortly thereafter he knocked at her window, and confessed that he could not find his girlfriend's town; "there was nothing there," only "a lot of mist or smoke or something" (22). Doña Eduviges, who also confesses to Juan she was Miguel's lover, surmised that Miguel must have died and told him so, chiding him for having been so careless with the horse that he had been warned would kill him one day. The next day, a ranch hand brought her news that Miguel had died and that Pedro (Miguel's father) was requesting her company. She asks Juan if he has "ever heard the moan of a dead man", and he answers in the negative (23).

In Pedro's youth, the young boy is wakened by someone who in tears. His mother tells him that his father has died. He watches her mourn, which she does by spinning in a circle while crying. Someone – the perspective is not identified – wonders "And you, Mother? Who killed you?" (24)

At Miguel Páramo's funeral, Father Rentería circles the boy's corpse refusing to offer absolution for his sins. When the crowd begs the priest to bless Miguel, the former refuses, saying he was "an evil man" (25). When mass ends, Pedro Páramo apologizes to Father Rentería for Miguel's deeds – it is known that Father Rentería's brother was murdered by Miguel, and that his niece Ana was raped by the boy. Pedro Páramo then gives the priest gold as a bribe to absolve the boy, and though the priest tries to hold out, he ultimately gives in and blesses Miguel.

The third-person narrator now follows Father Rentería to his home that night. He dines with his niece Ana, and inquires whether she is certain it was Miguel who raped her. She notes that it was dark, but that he identified himself. The priest wonders why she did not force him away, knowing he was the one who had killed her father, and her answer reveals that she intended to forgive him for his sins until he forced himself on her, at which point she became subservient and thought she had "died" (27). As he listens to Ana curse Miguel to hell, he rationalizes his decision to pardon the boy as meaningless.

On the night of Miguel's burial, a townswoman sees his horse galloping through town, and reports it to others, all of whom praise his passing as having happened "none too soon" (29). A few days later, news comes that Miguel's spirit is wandering in a nearby town, and the men joke and gossip about him - still chasing women in death. They see a shooting star, and wonder whether that bodes well or poorly for them.

On the night of the shooting stars, Father Rentería is wracked with guilt. He rationalizes having accepted money for the pardon of Miguel, since he cannot effectively run his ministry without money and "prayers don't fill a stomach" (30). He recalls the night that María Dyada had begged him to absolve her sister, doña Eduviges, of her sins. Doña Eduviges (the woman to whom Juan speaks in his present) had taken her own life, and Father Rentería refused to absolve her, despite María Dyada's arguments that the dead woman had given herself to others for her entire life, even when she was punished for that generosity. Father Rentería coldly insists that such forgiveness would require several priests, which would in turn require money to fund. The memory haunts him as a reminder of his hypocrisy.

In Juan's present, doña Eduviges (whom he identifies for the first time as Eduviges Dyada) rises and leaves him alone. When he realizes she is not going to return, he sleeps on the floor, a sleep that is interrupted by a cry "like the howl of a drunk" (32). When he sits up, he hears nothing. He hears the cry recommence, saying: "You owe me something even if it's nothing more than a hanged man's right to a last word" (32). Suddenly, the door is thrown open and Damiana Cisneros, whose name Juan recognizes from stories his mother told him, enters to invite Juan sleep to her house. He thanks her for the offer, and tells her about the cries; she identifies them as likely belonging to Toribio Aldrete, who was hung in that room many years before. She is surprised he was able to open the door that was shut after his death, and when he tells her that doña Eduviges let him in, Damiana regretfully says "that must mean she's still wandering like a lost soul" (33).

In Pedro's early adulthood, Toribio Aldrete reads a complaint that has been filed by don Fulgor Sedano, who works for Pedro Páramo (though we do not learn that quite yet). The perspective is third-person, though from don Fulgor's vantage, as he listens to Toribio balk at the complaint of "falsifying boundaries". Toribio complains to don Fulgor how he will not bow before Pedro Páramo. Don Fulgor also thinks about how he had rented a room from doña Eduviges in anticipation of hanging Toribio in it.

The narrative skips back to when don Fulgor was first employed by Pedro Páramo, two weeks before the previous scene. He knocks at Pedro's door, on an appointment to discuss the economic state of the Páramo lands, and is let in. The older man recalls how he first saw Pedro when the latter was a baby, since don Fulgor had worked for Lucas Páramo (Pedro's father). When Pedro insists don Fulgor use the assignation don, don Fulgor is insulted, and remembers how Lucas had never been so impertinent. As don Fulgor begins to recount the dire state of finances, Pedro shows no interest in the numbers but rather only to whom their debts are owed. When Pedro learns that they owe the most money to the Preciado family, he engineers a plan where don Fulgor will propose marriage to the family's eldest daughter, Dolorita, so that the debt can be absolved. Don Fulgor then mentions Toribio Aldrete, who has been putting up fences to push on their property line, and Pedro insists they will confront that problem later. Don Fulgor finds himself impressed with Pedro's aggressive qualities.

As don Fulgor heads over to the Preciado land, he wonders where and how Pedro learned such tricks, especially since Lucas used to demean the boy to don Fulgor. Don Fulgor loves the Media Luna, and wants to stay attached to it, so much so that he is willing to do Pedro's dirty work.

When don Fulgor proposes the arrangement to Dolorita, she is flattered. However, she resists the proposed speedy marriage, saying she not only wants to invite her sister who lives in another town, but also that she is menstruating. Don Fulgor denies her request for the postponement, and she tries to engage some folk remedies to speed up her period. Nevertheless, she is extremely happy.

Don Fulgor explains to Pedro how Father Rentería is demanding a payment since the marriage will come so hastily, and Pedro wonders whether they should have gotten an advance from Dolorita. He then orders don Fulgor to put a complaint out against Toribio Aldrete, and to make sure the latter knows that Pedro means to run his business seriously and aggressively.

The narrative jumps forward to don Fulgor's visit to Pedro after having killed Toribio. Pedro moves immediately to the next order of business, but then insists he's "wrapped up in [his] honeymoon" and will tend to their next antagonist soon.


In this section, the perspective of the novel opens up even more, to the point that Juan seemingly becomes a less integral protagonist than his father, Pedro. The reader begins to learn how Pedro built up the Media Luna: he took his father's fledgling estate and began to expand it through insidious and violent means. His marriage to Dolorita was based solely on material concerns. In fact, sexual attraction factored into it so little that he could wait to consummate the relationship. (The detail of her menstruation also explains why Pedro did not attempt to sleep with doña Eduviges when she took Dolorita's place as previously told.) Further, when he saw a chance to expand his land through murder, he was quick to take it, as we see with Toribio. It is useful to see in this expansion an epic archetype: Pedro is building an empire. The novel employs this mold (especially since we know Pedro will eventually fall), though it will upend the expectations of the epic in later sections.

The structure of the novel remains non-linear in the way it bounces around chronologically, but this section reveals a sort of logic, and provides some cohesion. Scenes follow one another with the rhythm either of memory or of storytelling, wherein one element can easily lead by a tangent into another. To be specific, consider how after the story of Miguel's death (told by doña Eduviges), the story shifts to the moment in Pedro's youth when his own father died. It is as though a person is remembering one element – the death of Pedro's son – and this leads him or her to reflect on how Pedro lost his own father. Or, alternatively, this rhythm could reflect a type of storytelling in which the listener is actively inquiring about elements he or she hears. One can imagine a listener asking "and how did Pedro lose his father?" upon learning of Pedro's son's death; however, Rulfo does not provide this connection, but instead leaves it to the reader to fill in. Another example of this rhythm comes with Toribio Aldrete. After Juan first hears of his murder, the story jumps immediately to the past, detailing the man's death and the circumstances surrounding it. Regardless of how we make sense of this structure, there is a certain logic guiding it.

What this logic implicitly suggests is the possibility that the myriad perspectives in the novel are actually being guided by one narrator who is recounting the stories of others. That is, perhaps Juan remains our narrator but has become a passive audience to stories he is hearing, rather than an active protagonist leading his own story. He has already mentioned that there are voices in his head, and indeed, most of this section finds him merely listening to doña Eduviges's tales. Therefore, it is possible that even the stories of Pedro's youth are being narrated to him from somewhere else. This interpretation will gain more validation as the novel progresses, but the first glimpses of this possibility are in these pages.

Death remains a prominent theme in these pages as well. The death imagery regularly surfaces: Miguel dies; Lucas dies; Ana believes she is dead while being raped. But more intriguingly, Comala seems to be a place where spirits wander so regularly that it is not considered abnormal. What is most telling is not that Miguel or doña Eduviges's sprits wander, but that nobody seems fazed by it, except perhaps Juan.

This issue of ghosts is tied up with the themes of time and regret. Pedro eschews his grandmother's advice to show patience in life, and we see how this later manifests in his ambitious acquisition of the Media Luna. However, in the Comala that Juan visits, patience seems to be the status quo. Notice the number of pauses that Rulfo writes into his conversations, implying that the speakers have little reason to rush. As doña Eduviges tells her stories, they are imbued with deep regret and remorse, and similarly, don Fulgor recognizes how the actions he takes under Pedro will ultimately cause him remorse. So deep is the extent of regret that Maria Dyada says that doña Eduviges "died of her sorrow" (31). And of course, there is Father Rentería, discussed in more detail below. This conception – of existence as being defined by our remorse for the past – supports the concept of Comala as a type of purgatory, where souls are trapped to relive their past sins until they finally receive absolution. Even Miguel's horse is trapped in this cycle, repeating his final gallop over and over, hoping for absolution for his role in his owner's death.

Of course, such a strict allegory fails when one considers Rulfo's pessimistic depiction of absolution. Rulfo continues to ground his ethereal story in a realistic vein not only through Pedro's empire-building, but through Father Rentería's greed. It would be folly to think this novel a social or religious critique, but the hypocrisy and greed of the Church (as reflected through the priest) is hardly subtle. He sells absolution to Miguel, who has raped his niece and killed his brother, for money, and then endeavors in more than one scene to rationalize it, so much so that he forces his niece to relive the torturous experience of her rape. And then, when Maria Dyada begged absolution for her sister, he affected a sanctimonious distance, all to suggest not only hypocrisy, but cruelty. That he feels remorse for his sins hardly removes the extent of his abuse, since the extremely Catholic society operates under the belief that death without absolution prohibits peace in the afterlife. Perhaps Rulfo is working within a then-commonly held interpretation of the Cristero wars (see the section on The Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the Cristero War of 1926-1929), which held that the priests were controlled by the landowners in inspiring that rebellion. Regardless, what is certain is that in Comala, the attempts to find happiness in transcendence are weighed down by material concerns that most cannot weather.

One theme that helps bring order to the work is the sins of the father. Several characters are defined by the sins that their fathers committed before them, and are thereby doomed for actions not under their control. Pedro's ambition is at least in part defined by his poverty, and one gets the sense that his father's disapproval of him, intimated by don Fulgor, might have further engaged his aggression. Similarly, Pedro's disavowal of Dolorita and his legitimate son Juan has forced the latter to come to this hellish town in pursuit of him. Miguel is not motivated by his ambition (as his father is), but instead his unchecked id. Pedro's culpability for this will be further explored. If we consider Father Rentería under this theme, then the entire town suffers for the sins of their "father". This theme will continue to manifest.

Finally, it is worth noting the attitude towards women that is prevalent in this rural community. To say that they are but objects is to put the issue simply. Dolorita is used as a pawn towards gaining land, and the sick way in which Miguel rapes Ana – by professing to beg forgiveness, and then counting on her submission – shows how powerless women are. The one brave act a woman takes in this section could be argued to be doña Eduviges's suicide (since she at least takes control of her situation), but under the patriarchal Church society, she is nevertheless left without any options. So irrelevant are women to the society that don Fulgor rationalizes his behavior by asking himself "what does a woman matter, after all" (38). This patriarchal oppression will continue to expand throughout the novel, and finally, it gives some insight into the ineffectualness of Juan Preciado. Considering that he not only has his mother's name instead of his father's, and that his action in the narrative was incited by a woman, it makes sense that he remains thus far trapped amongst the remorseful female ghosts.