Pedro Paramo

Pedro Paramo Summary and Analysis of Page 101 - Page 124


Gerardo Trujillo – Pedro's lawyer – tells Pedro about how the revolutionaries "got the best of El Tilcuate" (101). Their men were ambushed by a group called the Villistas, and many were killed or wounded. Gerardo tells Pedro he is moving, and that he should not continue to manage the man's affairs since they have "irregularities" that are best not discovered by others (102). Pedro gives him leave, and Gerardo leaves slowly, upset that he was not given a reward for his many years of service to both Pedro and don Lucas before him. Though he and wife are in need of money to finance their move, she had been certain he would receive nothing. He leaves the Media Luna behind, upset at having been overlooked.

After thinking about the situation, he heads back and tells Pedro he will continue to look after Media Luna affairs. Though it shames him, Gerardo asks Pedro for a loan to help with the move. Pedro offers him up to 1,000 pesos, denying him the 5,000 that Gerardo requests. Gerardo retreats into his resentments, thinking of all the murders and rapes he had covered up for Miguel, but when Pedro hands him the loan, he does not stand up for himself.

On a night noisy from the sound of bellowing bulls, Damiana Cisneros tries to sleep. She suddenly hears a tapping on a wall several doors down, and peeks from the window to see Pedro Páramo entering a young woman's window. She feels bad for the young woman, and wishes she could have prepared the girl. Later, she remembers having once denied Pedro entrance to her room, and how he never tried to come again, even though she later left the door unlocked for him. Remembering this makes her start to envy the young woman she had pitied only moments before. Later, she hears more pounding at the door, and sees several men outside a house. She ignores it and returns to bed.

Later, El Tilcuate tells Pedro that the rumors of his defeat were exaggerated, and that he has joined up with the Villistas army to get a better sense of their power. El Tilcuate has come to request money to pay his army, since they don't want to steal from people they know in the area. Pedro refuses his request, and tells him to rob other rich men. As the army leaves, he thinks of the young girl he had just raped, and how he tried to imagine her as Susana.

In the next section, Susana speaks with Justina while the latter cleans. Susana asks if Justina believes the world is made of sin; Justina answers in the positive, and says she simply lives waiting for death. Susana admits she only believes in hell, and then goes to sleep. Justina speaks with Pedro, who waits outside in the hall, and confesses her worry that Susana might die without God's grace, since she will not confess to Father Rentería. Pedro watches her writhe for a bit and tries to speak to her. Father Rentería arrives, and together, they try to give her Communion while she sleeps, but all she does is mutter Florencio's name.

Meanwhile, two women (Fausta and Angeles) outside the house look at the light in Susana's window and gossip. They have heard that this is the window of Pedro Páramo's wife, who is sick and crazy. They wonder if she is dying, and debate whether her sickness is a fitting punishment for Pedro. They head on, and, when they see a doctor rushing towards the house, wonder whether she has received her last rites. They hope she does not die, since Pedro's grief might interfere with the town's impending celebration.

Father Rentería tries to prepare Susana for death, but all she will tell him is "My mouth is filled with earth" (113). Finally, he leans forward to her and whispers the same phrase into her ear softly. When she does not reply, he continues to speak metaphorically of being dead and underground, slowly dissolving. He is impressed with her calm, her refusal to be perturbed by his morbid imagery. He then speaks to her of how the "vision of God" can rescue a body from such pain, but her response suggests she is merely dreaming of Florencio (114). Father Rentería sees Pedro, the doctor, and a group of women waiting for him, and then tells them he is finished, even though he has not completed the rites. He is upset that she will not trust him, so he tries one last time to frighten her, to no avail. Suddenly, she sits up and calls out to Justina to stop crying, after which she dies.

Back underground, Dorotea tells Juan that she was one of the women who saw Susana die.

For three days following Susana's death, bells in both Comala and neighboring towns ring incessantly, driving everyone deaf. A carnival comes to town and a fiesta begins. When the fiesta continues after the bells cease, the grieving Pedro sees it as an affront and swears to himself that "I will cross my arms and Comala will die of hunger" (117). This is exactly what happens.

The next section is a conversation between Pedro and El Tilcuate. Where the latter continues to switch sides, unsure whose alliance he should seek, Pedro no longer cares one way or the other. He is unfazed to hear that Father Rentería has joined the fighting.

One night, Pedro is sitting by the door of his house. For a while, he has been merely letting life pass him by. "He had forgotten what sleep was, or time" (117). He speaks aloud to Susana, unaware that he speaks through the night or that she cannot hear him.

At the same moment, doña Inés, mother of a storekeeper, sees Abundio enter the store. Abundio waits before the sleeping storekeeper, Gamaliel Villalpando. Doña Inés tries to wake him, but he curses her and goes back to sleep; so she waits on Abundio instead. She has to yell because he is hard of hearing. He asks for a bottle of liquor, telling her that his wife Refugio had died the night before. Her sickness had forced him to sell everything he owned, and he desperately needs to drown his sorrows. Doña Inés sells him liquor at half price, and asks that he pass on her compliments to the corpse. Abundio then tells her how Refugio could not receive her last rites because Father Rentería is off fighting the revolution. She pours him a little extra, and he leaves.

Because of his drunkenness, he ends up wandering instead of heading straight home, and Pedro Páramo sees him staggering. Abundio begs him for money to bury his wife. Without knowing what he is doing, in the midst of painful memories of his wife, he stabs Pedro. He hears Damiana screaming, but remains in a drunken stupor. Damiana is stabbed as well. Men arrive, and take the bloody knife from his hands. The men drag him away.

Meanwhile, the dying Pedro is barely able to move. He thinks again of Susana and tries to reach upward towards her, but his hand falls back down. Aware he is dying, he tries to walk inside with Damiana's ghost, but he collapses to the ground "like a pile of rocks" (124).


Unlike in most novels, there are almost no surprises in the last section of Pedro Páramo. There is a lot of action – three deaths, including that of the town – but the reader has long known about all three. Other than the fact that it is Abundio who murdered Pedro, we learn little that's new.

Similarly, the same themes surface here, unsurprising considering that this novel has thus far been less about narrative thrust than about thematic exploration. No new ideas of death, lifelessness, grief, or sin are introduced, but instead, the same questions circle around once more until the novel ends with the death of its title character.

Structurally, it is an intriguing and befuddling end. That a novel would end with the death of the main character is not original, but the bizarre question becomes: is Pedro Páramo the main character? In the last 40 pages, it seems possible, even though the focus has been split between him and Susana. However, considering the scope of the full work, it is difficult not to argue that the main character ought be considered Juan Preciado.

It is useful to recognize the circular nature of Juan's journey in addressing this question. As previously noted, Juan's journey is not forward but backwards, into a dead past and his own legacy. In discovering the truth about his father, he discovers things about himself. When he first enters Comala, effectively beginning the downward journey into the sin and remorse of the town, he is led by Abundio, his bastard half-brother, who at that point is long dead and has recovered his hearing. There is something interesting in the fact that the novel ends with a revelation of that character's fatal action: he killed Pedro, thereby making this larger-than-life figure confront the same facts about life's futility as the poor under his control have grappled with all their lives. On the last page, Pedro realizes that death will be nothing but repetition – he thinks about how he will have to relive the moment of Abundio's begging "until his voice dies" (121). One could see in this Juan's final acceptance: in a world of death and remorse, our lives are consumed by reliving what has already come.

From this perspective, it remains possible to consider Juan as the sole narrator of the work. That he ends with Pedro's death does not necessarily mean Pedro was his sole interest, but it is interesting to consider that Pedro's death marks the beginning of the end of Comala. He had decided to let the town starve when they threw a fiesta after Susana's death, and as we have already learned, he was successful. Following her death, he let it fall apart until everyone died off or moved. Considering that Juan's journey is backwards, it makes sense that novel ends here because it is time for it to recommence. Juan must now recollect everything of his own journey, until he has paid for his sins and earned the chance to move on.

Even Pedro's life has a circular quality. Consider the way he addresses Susana in the first person while in his final days, sitting lonely on his front porch. The nature of the language (and the first person narration in the midst of an otherwise third-person section) echo the first time the reader encounters that first-person narration early in the novel. At the time, Pedro is a boy, but these addresses are interposed (see pg 11-12 for the first example). Is it possible that these interposed addresses are from the older Pedro, and that Juan is simply recounting the voice of his own father that he hears from the grave? There is no easy answer, but the novel's labyrinthine nature asks us to connect dots and make interpretations like these. Time has folded in on itself and does not move forward, and perhaps that has happened for Pedro too.

The same conflict between life and lifelessness continues in the novel's final pages. Lifelessness is everywhere. Gerardo has a desire to move forward, but is unable (or unwilling) to truly leave the sway of his employer behind. The revolutionaries continue to ravage the country, but exist in a convoluted system wherein nobody knows who is working for whom, a type of incestuous confusion. Many of these people continue to act as Justina tells Susana she is doing: simply waiting for death. Finally, Pedro retires from his virile life and does the very same, until Abundio does him the favor of ending it early.

There is one particularly brutal passage in these final pages that reminds us of the horrific effects of the town's patriarchy. When Damiana sees that Pedro is raping a girl nearby, she first pities the girl, but then remembers how she lost her own chance to sleep with him. By the end of her reminiscences, she envies the girl. This thought process shows how demented a victim's psychology grows under a static and oppressive system. Though she had showed courage and strength in resisting Pedro years before, the lack of options for women and the lack of any support for such bravery makes her regret having done so. It is a particularly damning depiction of any system or society that refuses to progress, instead staying mired in its injustices.

Susana remains a symbol of life, but she reveals more clearly than before the dark cost of such freedom. She does not believe in heaven, only hell, and is so ready for death that it frightens Father Rentería. She indeed can retire to her own private world that brings her contentment, but she is only able to do so because she accepts the futility of life and the irrelevance of guilt. Most of the souls in Comala know nothing but guilt and sadness, but they feel these emotions because they had hopes and loves that were unfulfilled. Susana dies without hope or love in the world around her, but she is ironically more able to find happiness in her feverish stupor because she has so fully repudiated the possibility of any good in the world.

Finally, Rulfo's novel remains one firmly grounded in the real world, rather than ending on a philosophical note. Pedro, who was first introduced to us in the very worldly setting of an outhouse, dies "like a pile of rocks," confirming his earth-bound nature. And indeed, the novel ends at a time of Mexican turmoil. The revolutions are growing, which will ultimately lead the old world of Mexico to fall apart (see the section on The Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the Cristero War of 1926-1929 for details). The social systems that the revolutionaries oppose are not yet crumbling, but bloodshed and violence persist nevertheless. Despite Pedro's best efforts, the world is changing outside of Comala. All that is left is to lament its passing, and to simultaneously wonder whether such nostalgia is healthy, useful, or even within our control. These questions shape Pedro Páramo, and the fact that it proposes no easy answer to any of them renders the work a deep and resonant picture of both early 20th century Mexico and the human condition.