At first glance, the lake seems to be depicted as a thing of beauty; Angela describes is rich, deep blue hues repeatedly throughout her memoir, most commonly in reference to Don Manuel's eyes. The lake plays a large role in shaping the villagers' superstitions, including a rumor that beneath the lake's surface lies an ancient, sunken village. Don Manuel is also shown frequently gazing into the lake. However, the motif takes on a much darker undertone when it is revealed that Don Manuel is not simply admiring the lake's natural beauty, but rather fantasizing about committing suicide. Just as the lake's beauty conceals certain dark, unknowable secrets, Don Manuel's outwardly splendid religious life masks the true internal struggles that the man kept hidden throughout his life.
Don Manuel is consistently depicted as a parallel to Jesus Christ. Both men are highly respected, beloved religious figures who work to better the lives of those around them. Additionally, both are made to suffer tremendously because of their beliefs. However, whereas Jesus's suffering came from those who persecuted him, Don Manuel's suffering came from within, due to his own struggles with his belief. Don Manuel himself considered Jesus to be stronger in spirit than he, saying, "I could not resist the temptation of the desert; I could not bear the cross of living by myself." By alluding to two of Jesus's biblical trials, Don Manuel contrasts Jesus's supernaturally steadfast character to his own mortal weaknesses. Ultimately, both figures are idolized following their deaths and cemented as symbols of hope that extend far beyond their mortal lifespans.
The Walnut Tree (Symbol)
In Don Manuel's youth, there was a walnut tree which the villagers called the matriarchal tree. The young Don Manuel often ate its nuts and rested under its shade. When the walnut tree died, Don Manuel cut six planks from its trunk and used the rest of the tree as firewood to warm the poor.
The tree symbolizes the innocence and religiosity Don Manuel possessed in his youth. Don Manuel says that "when he played in the shade of the walnut tree as a child... he believed in life everlasting." Later, it is revealed that the six planks Don Manuel cut from the tree were intended to be his casket. Just as how Don Manuel's tree dies with age and becomes used to help the villagers, Don Manuel sacrifices his own life and innocence in order to save his village.
The Rooster (Allegory)
When Don Manuel brings Lazaro into the village's communion at dawn, Angela hears a rooster crowing in the background. This alludes to the story of Peter in the Bible, where Peter lied about his association with Jesus Christ three times before the rooster crowed. In San Manuel Bueno, Martyr, the rooster foreshadows the revelation that both Lazaro and Don Manuel are nonreligious, and that they are only feigning belief for the sake of the village.
As an added bonus, when the villagers see Don Manuel weeping before Lazaro, they also wept, saying, "How he loves him!" This is an additional allusion to the Bible, where Jesus Christ wept upon hearing of his friend Lazarus's death. In San Manuel Bueno, Martyr, Don Manuel, who represents Jesus, is weeping over Lazaro, who represents Lazarus.
Healing by the Lake (Allegory)
One of Don Manuel's earliest miracles involves him healing a multitude of villagers by Valverde de Lucerna's iconic lake. This alludes to many healing miracles performed by Jesus Christ in the Bible. However, it bears the most resemblance to Jesus's miracle near the sea of Galilee, where Jesus also famously healed a multitude of people.
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.