Pedro Paramo

Pedro Paramo Summary and Analysis of Page 81 - Page 101


Don Fulgor brings news to Pedro that Bartolomé San Juan (Susana's father, though this is not specified here) has moved back to Comala and into one of Pedro's houses. Don Fulgor offers to investigate the cause of their return, but Pedro volunteers to do it. Pedro is confused when don Fulgor mentions he has returned with his wife and not daughter. He questions the assumption, and don Fulgor replies "The way he treats her, she seems more like his wife" (82).

The next section is narrated directly by Pedro to Susana, though there is no indication she is listening to him. He tells her how he had long begged her father to return, promising him an administrative post, but how Bartolomé ignored his requests. Pedro had learned of her marriage and subsequent widowhood from a messenger, until finally his messenger could no longer find the San Juans. It took a long time until the messenger again located them living remotely, "in a log hut on the site of the abandoned La Andromeda mines" (83). He then recounts their return, how Bartolomé, worried about "reports of armed rebellion", decided to return so Susana could again know "civilization" (83). Pedro tells her how much he wept when he learned of her return.

The next section is spoken from Bartolomé to Susana. He complains about the "smell of misfortune" in Comala, but explains that they returned because Pedro gave them one of his houses. However, he stresses to her that they need not be "grateful to him", since he only wants her for himself (83). Pedro has confessed to Bartolomé how he has loved Susana since their childhood. Susana tells her father that she is "prepared to go to bed with [Pedro]", which angers him (84). He grows particularly angry when she calls him by his first name. Bartolomé has told Pedro how she still lives in grief over her dead husband, and then he insists to her that she remain under his control. When she silently shows resistance to this idea of control, he grows angry.

Pedro floats an idea by don Fulgor: they could send Bartolomé to the old mines and facilitate an accident that would kill him and leave Susana in Pedro's hands. Fulgor approves of the idea and is glad to see Pedro "getting [his] spirit back" (85).

The next section is narrated directly by Susana. She tells of a rainy day in Comala, when Indians come down into the valley to barter for their herbs. However, nobody comes to their marketplace, partly because the men are out working in the rainy fields. The Indians remained unfazed, laughing and joking despite the lack of business. When Justina Díaz passes by on her way to church, she feels the Indians watching her; she later buys some rosemary. Justina brings the herbs to the room where Susana sleeps. When Bartolomé approaches her there and tries to release her from service – claiming Susana does not need her anymore – Justina screams, fearful the sick girl will be left without an attendant. The scream wakes Susana, who complains to Justina that the latter's cat is bothering her when she sleeps. Justina tells Susana that, once Pedro Páramo comes for her, Justina will leave, but Susana refuses. Justina recalls how "she had cared for Susana from the day she was born" and she accepts to herself that she will never leave (89).

A depressed Susana wakes early one morning, thinking she has heard the door open a crack. When she finds nobody, she returns to sleep. Later, she calls Justina to complain that Justina's cat has returned. Saddened by Susana's condition, they hold each other and cry. Susana promises to insist that Pedro keep Justina around. Justina then breaks the news to her: her father has died in the mines. Susana realizes it must have been his ghost she heard that morning, coming to say goodbye. She remembers a moment when she was young, when Bartolomé had lowered her by a rope into a mine to find some gold coins. All she could remember finding was a man's skull, and then "the ice of her father's glare" that followed (91). The memory makes Susana laugh aloud, which both scares and worries Justina.

Later, Susana lies in bed listening to brutal rains outside. Someone enters her room, and when she asks if it is her father, the man answers yes. Realizing it is Father Rentería, she thinks to herself how he has come to tell her that Florencio – presumably her first husband – has died, but how she already knows and has learned to manage her grief. Father Rentería calls the girl to him, but she quickly retreats back to bed and demands he leave, since she does not need him.

A man named El Tartamudo arrives at the Media Luna with news that don Fulgor has been murdered. Fulgor was investigating a water issue when a band of revolutionaries recognized him as Pedro's foreman and shot him. They then told El Tartamudo to bring news to Pedro that they were coming. Pedro orders El Tartamudo to invite the revolutionaries to see him any time, but first asks the man to send for a mercenary named El Tilcuate. Pedro feels "old and weary", though he is not upset about don Fulgor (94). He then thinks about Susana, who is sleeping in the next room. He spends his nights watching her in the midst of her fever, tearing her sheets to shreds. He is committed to staying by her no matter her condition, but is desperate to know "what world" consumes her in her mind (95). It is clear they are married at this point.

Juan, still underground, hears Susana speaking about the feeling of being at the beach, the feeling of sand and water surrounding her. She remembers how a man once followed her out there, and how she became the man's lover.

A group of about twenty revolutionaries approaches the Media Luna, and Pedro invites them to dinner. El Tilcuate, whom Pedro described as a "boa constrictor", stands with him (94). The rebel leader explains to Pedro that they have taken up arms against the government and the big landowners, and Pedro offers to help fund their rebellion. They discuss whether to accept his money or to simply rob him, and finally settle on accepting 100,000 pesos and 300 men.

When they leave, Pedro and El Tilcuate discuss their best line of attack. They identify which of the men seemed to be the leader. Pedro orders El Tilcuate to infiltrate the rebellion alongside 300 trustworthy men, and then he promises El Tilcuate land in return for his service.

Juan and Dorotea discuss what Susana is saying. She remembers how her lover used to nibble on her feet and then how terribly his death affected her. They wonder whom it is she is speaking about. They hear a sound that they assume is her coffin splitting open.

In her dreams, Susana remembers not only how her husband Florencio was so big and strong, but also how terrible it was to learn of his death. Pedro watches her toss and turn in her dreams, wishing she was suffering from some pain he could alleviate rather than these imprecise dreams. He leaves her alone. "That was how Father Rentería found her hours later; naked and sleeping" (101).


Considering that the novel is in its final sections, there are two interesting storytelling developments. The first is that Pedro has effectively become the main character. In this 20-page section, only two short segments explicitly mention Juan's present. The rest of the story is set around Pedro's life. Secondly, Susana is introduced as yet another potential protagonist, and much of the remaining attention is given to her.

As with earlier sections, this multiplicity of voices and characters can still be explained in terms of Juan's journey. If we consider that his journey is not forward into the future (as is the case in most stories) but instead backwards into the past, then it is possible to consider he has now become fully immersed in it. It is established that he and Dorotea hear Susana speaking, and so one could extrapolate that even the narrative of Pedro and Susana is being pieced together by other voices. What somewhat confounds this interpretation is the different approach to the sections, however. Some of them – such as the conversation between Bartolomé and Susana – are set apart by quotes, as though Juan might be overhearing the voice of a spirit. Others are narrated without quotes, or simply dictated by a third-person omniscient narrator. However, there does remain a logic to the order of scenes. Consider the two sections on page 95. Pedro watches Susana in the midst of her fever dream, and the section ends with his question about what world she inhabits. The next section, spoken by Susana and overheard by Juan, gives us an answer to this question – she is dreaming of a man. Later sections will reveal this man to be Florencio, her late husband. The impressive quality of the work can be found in the fact that even these disconnected scenes do maintain a strange chronology, even though the chronology only exists in the mind of the reader, as our questions are answered once presented. Considering that Juan Preciado is himself a 'reader' of Comala's past, we can continue to think of the novel as all filtered through him.

The story continues to be dominated by the sin of lifelessness, which helps to explain why Pedro is now central to the story. He was not only the primary figure in the life of Comala that his son Juan has come to explore, but he is also the central force that demands stasis and lifelessness of the world around him. When the revolutionaries come, he brilliantly maintains control not simply by quashing them (though that is his ultimate plan), but by forcing them to accept his money. The irony is that they are submitting to the favors of the very system they purport to destroy.

Other signs of lifelessness can be seen in the San Juan family. There is an implicit (though strong) suggestion that Bartolomé holds Susana in an incestuous relationship. Fulgor sets up this expectation with his observation that they act like husband and wife, and the reader sees a manifestation of it through their conversations. Bartolomé exerts nigh-tyrannical control over her life, next to which Pedro seems almost gentle. Considering how incest has been shown as a stifling, inward force in the case of Donis and his sister, we are perhaps to consider that Susana exists under the same limitations here, forces that keep her from living and moving forward.

There are many indications of how patriarchy forces such stasis on women. There is another indication that Father Rentería is molesting the sickly Susana in the presentation of his night-time visits to her. Similarly, Justina is a woman without options. Her love for Susana binds her to the family, but she also is hampered by that obligation. Note the passage on page 89, which recounts how Justina watched the girl grow. The idea is that Susana continued to grow while Justina stayed still, and now is stuck without any real options for change.

Yet despite all of these stifling forces, Susana is presented as a force of virile life energy. Her strong-willed repudiation of her father's desires during their conversations reveals to us that she is not a subservient woman (unlike Donis's sister, who has been battered by circumstance into submission). Unlike other women in the town, who are made small by Father Rentería's demands, Susana orders the priest out of her room, and even refers to him as "dead" (93). Of course, she is no triumphant hero. The sad irony of her life energy is that she must turn inwards, to memory, in order to access it. When the world around her grows dank and ugly – her husband has died, her father molests her, she is forced into marriage with a man she does not know, and Comala is a hellhole – her natural instinct is to ignore the physical world and instead retreat into her own private world of memories. So strongly can she retreat into her world that she even breaks her coffin in death; she is unbounded.

The question then becomes why Susana can find happiness in her inward journey, while the souls stuck in Comala find only pain. The answer is found in her attitude towards grief: "Don't be sad about anything else; don't worry about me. I keep my grief hidden in a safe place. Don't let your heart go out!" (92) Unlike most of the rural Comala residents, Susana refuses to feel shame, a sensation enforced by worldly moralities. She certainly has painful memories, but her grief is her own, and she sees no reason to answer for it to anyone else. She immerses herself into her own "safe place" and thereby is not reliant on the stale world of Comala for her happiness. This philosophy echoes Dorotea's statement earlier, about how giving up the soul brings one happiness, except Dorotea continues to feel the need to explain herself. Susana has given up on the world, and is happier for it.

Finally, this section marks the beginning of the revolution. Again, part of Rulfo's brilliance is the ability to tell an ethereal, meditative story while keeping it grounded in the physical world, both through geographical reference and temporal marks. This revolution is one of the few ways to approximate the time at which the narrative takes place (this section of Pedro's story would occur around 1910). In some ways, these revolutionaries should be a life force – they want to destroy the old world and recreate a new one. And yet the dinner scene shows them to be petty and driven by impure motives. The basic idea is that the problems with our world have a physical counterpoint, but are not simply due to static social systems. Instead, it is our inability to break out of our own lifelessness and stasis that damns us. Hence, our revolutions will always be compromised, as is this one when it accepts Pedro's money.