“The most important thing is for people to be happy, and for them to be content with their lives. Contentment with one’s life is the most important thing. No one should want to die, until God wills it.”
There is irony in this quote in that despite Don Manuel's saying this, he constantly struggles with unhappiness and thoughts of suicide; one would expect someone who values happiness to be happy themselves. However, this irony isn't as self-contradictory as it seems, and in fact reveals a new depth to Don Manuel's character. Don Manuel's struggles in his life reveal that he values happiness so much that he is willing to sacrifice his own happiness so that other people may be happy.
"I cannot abandon my people to save my soul; that is the way God made me. I could not resist the temptation of the desert. I could not bear the cross of living with myself"
This passage alludes to several trials experienced by Jesus Christ in the Bible: Jesus's temptation in the desert, and his crucifixion. In the Bible, Jesus is approached in the desert by Satan and given a series of temptations, each of which Jesus rejects. In addition, Jesus's penultimate fate is being crucified: tortured and martyred upon the cross. When Don Manuel says he could neither resist the temptation of the desert, nor bear the cross of living alone, he is comparing himself unfavorably to Jesus, emphasizing his human nature compared to Jesus's supernatural origins. However, this comparison highlights the strength of Don Manuel's endeavors in Valverde de Lucerna; despite his human disposition, he is ultimately able to become a martyr for the sake of Valverde de Lucerna, much like Jesus Christ was in the Bible.
"Why was Don Manuel so upset? Was it because he could not deceive himself, or because he could not deceive me? I want to believe that he became upset because he could not deceive himself, in order to deceive me."
In this quote, Angela reflects upon Don Manuel's reaction to her questioning his true beliefs. Her analysis reveals much about Don Manuel's relationship with the truth: rather than being a hypocrite, Don Manuel is actively aware of the conflict between his beliefs and his actions, to the point where it pains and upsets him. Angela's thoughts also reveal her own disposition; in the end, her conclusion that Don Manuel was upset at himself for being unable to quell her doubts shows her optimistic faith in the goodness of Don Manuel.
"My life, Lazaro, is a kind of continuous suicide, or a battle against suicide, which is the same thing."
As Don Manuel speaks this line, he sums up the essence of his existence. For Don Manuel, life is a painful struggle to survive another day, despite his desire to die. The fact that Don Manuel compels himself to live and serve his people reveals how much he values the villagers' happiness, as well as how seriously he takes on his responsibility as leader of Valverde de Lucerna.
"I don't mind having to die, but with me, another piece of the soul of Don Manuel will die. But the rest of him will continue to live with you. Until one day, even those of us who are dead will die completely"
In this quote, Lazaro touches upon the idea of an afterlife in religion. For the religious villagers of Valverde de Lucerna, the afterlife they imagine is one in heaven as depicted in the Bible. However, for nonbelievers like Lazaro and Don Manuel, their life after death only exists in the influence they imparted upon people while they were alive. As such, Lazaro believes Don Manuel will experience two deaths: his physical death, and his spiritual death when all those who knew him in Valverde de Lucerna pass away.
"I believe the good Don Manuel and my brother Lazaro died thinking they did not believe, but...actually did believe, in an active and resigned desolation."
This paradox reinforces the conflict between belief and nonbelief among the three main characters. Though Don Manuel and Lazaro died thinking they were nonbelievers, Angela believes that their nonbeliefs were, in fact, a form of believing after all. Her desire to consider Don Manuel and Lazaro believers even after their deaths is a reflection of her own innocent, optimistic demeanor she held since her youth.
"My heavenly patron, St. Archangel Michael (Michael means 'Who such as God?') argued with the Devil (Devil means accuser, prosecutor) over the body of Moses, and would not allow him to carry it off as a prize, to damnation. Instead, he told the Devil: 'May the Lord rebuke thee.' "
In this passage, "damnation" is synonymous with annihilation, or oblivion. The body of Moses here can be seen as symbolic of the late Don Manuel's existence. The protection of Moses's body from oblivion by the epilogical narrator's patron saint is a representation of the story; by publishing Angela Carballino's memoir, the epilogical narrator is immortalizing the existence of Don Manuel in reality forever.
San Manuel Bueno, Martyr Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for San Manuel Bueno, Martyr is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.