Author: Kate Chopin
The Awakening: Setting
Grand Isle a resort in the Gulf of Mexico
Grand Isle in the Gulf of Mexico
The Awakening: Plot
The novel opens with the Pontellier family vacationing on Grand Isle at a resort on the Gulf of Mexico managed by Madame Lebrun and her two sons, Robert and Victor. The Pontellier family is composed of Léonce Pontellier, a businessman of Louisiana Creole heritage; his 28-year-old wife Edna, and their two sons, Etienne and Raoul.
Edna spends most of her time with her close friend Adèle Ratignolle. In a boisterious and cheery manner, Adèle reminds Edna of her duties as a wife and mother. At Grand Isle, Edna eventually forms a connection with Robert Lebrun, a charming and earnest young man who actively seeks Edna's attention and affections. When they fall deeply in love, Robert senses the doomed nature of such a relationship, flees to Mexico under the guise of pursuing a nameless business venture. At this point in the novel, the narrative focus shifts to Edna's complex, shifting emotions as she reconciles her maternal duties with her desire to be with Robert and her desire for social freedom.
With the summer vacation over, the Pontelliers return to New Orleans. Edna gradually reassesses her priorities and takes a more active role in her own happiness. She starts to isolate herself from New Orleans society and withdraw from some of the duties traditionally associated with motherhood. Léonce eventually calls in a doctor to diagnose her, fearing she is losing her mental faculties. The doctor advises Léonce to let her be.
When Léonce prepares to travel to New York City on business, he sends the boys to his mother and leaves Edna alone at home for an extended period. This gives Edna physical and emotional room to breathe and think over various aspects of her life. While her husband is still away, she moves out of her house and into a small bungalow nearby, and spices up this transition period by dallying with Alcée Arobin, a persistent suitor with a reputation for being free with his affections. For the first time in the novel, Edna is shown as a sexual being, but the affair proves awkward and emotionally fraught.
The other person to whom Edna reaches out during this time is Mademoiselle Reisz, a gifted recitalist whose playing is renowned throughout New Orleans but who maintains a generally hermetic existence. At a party earlier in the novel, Edna is profoundly moved by Mademoiselle Reisz's playing. Mademoiselle Reisz is in contact with Robert while he is in Mexico, receiving letters from him regularly. Edna begs her to reveal their contents, which she does, proving to Edna that Robert is thinking about her.
Eventually Robert returns to New Orleans. At first aloof (and finding excuses not to be near Edna), he eventually confesses his passionate love for her. He admits that the business trip to Mexico was an excuse to get away from a relationship that would never work.
Edna is called away to help Adèle with a difficult childbirth. Adèle pleads with Edna to think of what she would be turning her back on if she did not behave appropriately. When Edna returns home, she finds a note from Robert stating that he has left forever.
Devastated, Edna rushes back to Grand Isle, where she had first met Robert Lebrun. The novel ends with Edna allowing herself to be overtaken by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Awakening: Edna Pontellier
The novel's protagonist. The wife of Léonce and the mother of two boys, she is presented as a complex and emotionally dynamic character. Her "awakening" forms the core of the plot.
The Awakening: Robert Lebraun
The son of the proprietor of the Grand Isle resort where the Pontellier family summers. Edna and Robert develop a mutual attraction that forms the central conflict of the novel. He relocates to Mexico under the pretext of seeking business opportunities in order to escape a relationship that has no chance of survival. His return from Mexico further complicates matters and leads to the novel's tragic climax.
The Awakening: Leonce Pontellier
Edna's husband. Léonce is a stern patriarch with very clear ideas about what a woman's preoccupations should be. In his eyes, Edna's only aims in life should be the orderly maintenance of the family estate and the care of their two sons. He becomes genuinely confused at his wife's gradual desire for emancipation, which goes against all the social conventions of the time. His absence on an extended business trip to New York City provides Edna the room to reconsider her situation.
The Awakening: Alcee Arobin
When Robert Lebrun leaves for Mexico, Alcée actively seeks Edna's attention and affections. At first ambivalent at the prospect, Edna eventually lets him court her. He has a womanizing reputation but treats Edna in a chivalrous (if aggressively infatuated) manner.
The Awakening: Adele Ratignolle
Friend of the Pontellier family. She is set up in opposition to Edna as an almost unthinkingly self-sacrificing "mother-woman" (as Chopin describes her). The traditional ideal of late-1800s femininity, she is also a warm, generous, and boisterous presence. As Edna struggles with her place in the home and society at large, Adèle reminds her to think of her children and put them above all else, even herself.
The Awakening: Mademoiselle Reisz
Although renowned as a gifted pianist, she is barely a fringe member of New Orleans society. Edna seeks out Mademoiselle Reisz for advice and because the lady is in communication with Robert Lebrun while he is in Mexico. A perceptive and bluntly honest woman, she is almost shamanistic as she helps Edna sort out her emotions. Reisz is very much a foil to Madame Ratignolle's character; she has no family and happily lives alone, not caring what society thinks of her.
The Awakening: Themes
Solitude as the Consequence of Independence
For Edna Pontellier, the protagonist of The Awakening, independence and solitude are almost inseparable. The expectations of tradition coupled with the limitations of law gave women of the late 1800s very few opportunities for individual expression, not to mention independence. Expected to perform their domestic duties and care for the health and happiness of their families, Victorian women were prevented from seeking the satisfaction of their own wants and needs. During her gradual awakening, Edna discovers her own identity and acknowledges her emotional and sexual desires.
Initially, Edna experiences her independence as no more than an emotion. When she swims for the first time, she discovers her own strength, and through her pursuit of her painting she is reminded of the pleasure of individual creation. Yet when Edna begins to verbalize her feelings of independence, she soon meets resistance from the constraints—most notably, her husband—that weigh on her active life. And when she makes the decision to abandon her former lifestyle, Edna realizes that independent ideas cannot always translate into a simultaneously self-sufficient and socially acceptable existence.
Ultimately, the passion that Robert feels for Edna is not strong enough to join the lovers in a true union of minds, since although Robert's passion is strong enough to make him feel torn between his love and his sense of moral rectitude, it is not strong enough to make him decide in favor of his love. The note Robert leaves for Edna makes clear to Edna the fact that she is ultimately alone in her awakening. Once Robert refuses to trespass the boundaries of societal convention, Edna acknowledges the profundity of her solitude.
The Implications of Self-Expression
Edna's discovery of ways to express herself leads to the revelation of her long-repressed emotions. During her awakening, Edna learns at least three new "languages." First, she learns the mode of expression of the Creole women on Grand Isle. Despite their chastity, these women speak freely and share their emotions openly. Their frankness initially shocks Edna, but she soon finds it liberating. Edna learns that she can face her emotions and sexuality directly, without fear. Once her Creole friends show her that it is okay to speak and think about one's own feelings, Edna begins to acknowledge, name, define, and articulate her emotions.
Edna also learns to express herself through art. This lesson occurs in Chapter IX, when Edna hears Mademoiselle Reisz perform on the piano. Whereas previously music had called up images to her mind, the mademoiselle's piano playing stirs her in a deeper way: "she saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair. But the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body." As the music ceases to conjure up images in Edna's mind, it becomes for Edna a sort of call to something within herself. Additionally, Mademoiselle Reisz has felt that she and Edna have been communicating through the music: noting Edna's "agitation," she says that Edna is "the only one" at the party who is "worth playing for." Once Edna is aware of music's power to express emotion, she begins to paint as she has never painted before. Painting ceases to be a diversion and becomes instead a form of true expression.
From Robert and Alcée, Edna learns how to express the love and passion she has kept secret for so long. As with her other processes of language-learning, Edna finds that once she learns the "vocabulary" with which to express her needs and desires, she is better able to define them for herself. A pattern emerges—Edna can learn a language from a person but then surpass her teacher's use of her newfound form of expression. For example, while Adèle teaches her that they can be open with one another, Edna soon wants to apply this frankness to all areas of her life. And although Robert helps to teach her the language of sexuality, she wants to speak this language loudly, as it were, while Robert still feels social pressure to whisper.
As Edna's ability to express herself grows, the number of people who can understand her newfound languages shrinks. Ultimately, Edna's suicide is linked to a dearth of people who can truly understand and empathize with her. Especially after Robert's rejection of her in Chapter XXXVIII, Edna is convinced definitively of her essential solitude because the language of convention Robert speaks has become incomprehensible to Edna. Although Robert has taught her the language of sexuality, Edna has become too fluent. In this dilemma, Edna mirrors the parrot in Chapter I, which speaks French and "a little Spanish" but "also a language which nobody understood, unless it was the mocking-bird. . . ." The mockingbird, which merely whistles inarticulate "fluty notes" with "maddening persistence," resembles Edna's friends who seem to understand Edna but do not speak back.
The Awakening: Motifs
Throughout The Awakening, the manner in which each of the characters uses and understands music gives us a sense of Edna's ideological alignment in relation to the novel's other characters. Additionally, Edna's exploration of music and her meditations upon its significance enable her own (visual) art to flourish. Edna first learns about the emotive power of music from Mademoiselle Reisz. Whereas Adèle Ratignolle's piano playing had merely conjured sentimental pictures for Edna, the older woman's playing stirs new feelings and probes unexplored emotional territories in her. Mademoiselle Reisz uses music as a form of artistic expression, not merely as a way of entertaining others. In contrast to Mademoiselle Reisz, the Farival twins play the piano purely for the sake of the gathered company. The twins' association with the Virgin Mary, and, hence, with a destiny of chaste motherliness, links them thematically with notions of how Victorian women should behave. Their piano playing—entertaining but not provocative, pleasant but not challenging—similarly serves as the model for how women should use art. It becomes clear that, for a Victorian woman, the use of art as a form of self-exploration and self-articulation constitutes a rebellion. Correspondingly, Mademoiselle Reisz's use of music situates her as a nonconformist and a sympathetic confidante for Edna's awakening.
The difference Edna detects between the piano-playing of Mademoiselle Reisz and Adèle Ratignolle seems also to testify to Edna's emotional growth. She reaches a point in her awakening in which she is able to hear what a piece of music says to her, rather than idly inventing random pictures to accompany the sounds. Thus, music, or Edna's changing reactions to it, also serves to help the reader locate Edna in her development.
Images of children, and verbal allusions to them, occur throughout the novel. Edna herself is often metaphorically related to a child. In her awakening, she is undergoing a form of rebirth as she discovers the world from a fresh, childlike, perspective. Yet Edna's childishness has a less admirable side. Edna becomes self-absorbed, she disregards others, and she fails to think realistically about the future or to meditate on her the consequences of her actions.
Ultimately, Edna's thoughts of her children inspire her to commit suicide, because she realizes that no matter how little she depends on others, her children's lives will always be affected by society's opinion of her. Moreover, her children represent an obligation that, unlike Edna's obligation to her husband, is irrevocable. Because children are so closely linked to Edna's suicide, her increasing allusions to "the little lives" of her children prefigure her tragic end.
Edna stays in many houses in The Awakening: the cottages on Grand Isle, Madame Antoine's home on the Chênière Caminada, the big house in New Orleans, and her "pigeon house." Each of these houses serves as a marker of her progress as she undergoes her awakening. Edna is expected to be a "mother-woman" on Grand Isle, and to be the perfect social hostess in New Orleans. While she is living in the cottage on Grand Isle and in the big house in New Orleans, Edna maintains stays within the "walls" of these traditional roles and does not look beyond them.
However, when she and Robert slip away to the Chênière Caminada, their temporary rest in Madame Antoine's house symbolizes the shift that Edna has undergone. Staying in the house, Edna finds herself in a new, romantic, and foreign world. It is as though the old social structures must have disappeared, and on this new island Edna can forget the other guests on Grand Isle and create a world of her own. Significantly, Madame Antoine's house serves only as a temporary shelter—it is not a "home." Edna's newfound world of liberty is not a place where she can remain.
The "pigeon house" does allow Edna to be both at "home" and independent. Once she moves to the pigeon house, Edna no longer has to look at the material objects that Léonce has purchased and with which Edna equates herself. She can behave as she likes, without regard to how others will view her actions. In the end, however, the little house will prove not to be the solution Edna expected. While it does provide her with independence and isolation, allowing her to progress in her sexual awakening and to escape the gilded cage that Léonce's house constituted, Edna finds herself cooped anew, if less extravagantly. The fact that her final house resembles those used to keep domesticated pigeons does not bode well for Edna's fate. In the end, feeling alternately an exile and a prisoner, she is "at home" nowhere. Only in death can she hope to find the things a home offers—respite, privacy, shelter, and comfort.
The Awakening: Symbols
In The Awakening, caged birds serve as reminders of Edna's entrapment and also of the entrapment of Victorian women in general. Madame Lebrun's parrot and mockingbird represent Edna and Madame Reisz, respectively. Like the birds, the women's movements are limited (by society), and they are unable to communicate with the world around them. The novel's "winged" women may only use their wings to protect and shield, never to fly.
Edna's attempts to escape her husband, children, and society manifest this arrested flight, as her efforts only land her in another cage: the pigeon house. While Edna views her new home as a sign of her independence, the pigeon house represents her inability to remove herself from her former life, as her move takes her just "two steps away." Mademoiselle Reisz instructs Edna that she must have strong wings in order to survive the difficulties she will face if she plans to act on her love for Robert. She warns: "The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth."
Critics who argue that Edna's suicide marks defeat, both individually and for women, point out the similar wording of the novel's final example of bird imagery: "A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water." If, however, the bird is not a symbol of Edna herself, but rather of Victorian womanhood in general, then its fall represents the fall of convention achieved by Edna's suicide.
The sea in The Awakening symbolizes freedom and escape. It is a vast expanse that Edna can brave only when she is solitary and only after she has discovered her own strength. When in the water, Edna is reminded of the depth of the universe and of her own position as a human being within that depth. The sensuous sound of the surf constantly beckons and seduces Edna throughout the novel.
Water's associations with cleansing and baptism make it a symbol of rebirth. The sea, thus, also serves as a reminder of the fact that Edna's awakening is a rebirth of sorts. Appropriately, Edna ends her life in the sea: a space of infinite potential becomes a blank and enveloping void that carries both a promise and a threat. In its sublime vastness, the sea represents the strength, glory, and lonely horror of independence.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Author: Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God: Setting
Their Eyes Were Watching God: Plot
The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby can tell Janie's story to the nosy community on her behalf. Her life has three major periods corresponding to her marriages to three very different men.
Nanny, Janie's grandmother, was a slave who became pregnant by her owner and gave birth to a daughter, Leafy. Though Nanny tries to create a good life for her daughter, Leafy is raped by her school teacher and she becomes pregnant with Janie. Shortly after Janie's birth, Leafy begins to drink and stay out at night. Eventually, she runs away leaving Janie with Nanny. Nanny transfers all the hopes she had for Leafy to Janie. When Janie is sixteen, Nanny sees her kissing a neighborhood boy, Johnny Taylor, and fears that Janie will become a "mule" to some man. Nanny arranges for Janie to marry Logan Killicks, an older man and farmer who is looking for a wife to keep his home and help on the farm. Although Janie was not interested in marriage at that time, her grandmother wanted her to have the kinds of things she never had the chance to have, and by marrying Logan Killicks Janie's grandmother thought it gave her the opportunity to make this possible. Janie has the idea that marriage must involve love, forged in a pivotal early scene where she sees bees pollinating a pear tree, and believes that marriage is the human equivalent to this natural process. Logan Killicks, however, wants a domestic helper rather than a lover or partner, and after he tries to force her to help him with the hard labor of the farm, Janie runs off with the glib Jody (Joe) Starks, who takes her to Eatonville.
Starks arrives in Eatonville to find the residents devoid of ambition, so he arranges to buy more land from the neighboring landowner, hires some local residents to build a general store for him to own and run, and the people of the town appoint him mayor. Janie soon realizes that Joe wants her as a trophy wife. He wants the image of his perfect wife to reinforce his powerful position in town, as he asks her to run the store but forbids her from participating in the substantial social life that occurs on the store's front porch.
After Starks passes away, Janie finds herself financially independent and beset with suitors, some of whom are men of some means or have prestigious occupations, but she falls in love with a drifter and gambler named Vergible Woods who goes by the name of Tea Cake throughout the story. She falls in love with Tea Cake after he plays the guitar for her. She sells the store and the two head to Jacksonville and get married, only to move to the Everglades region ("the muck") soon after for Tea Cake to find work planting and harvesting beans. While their relationship has its ups and downs, including mutual bouts of jealousy, Janie now has the marriage with love that she had wanted.
The area is hit by the great Okeechobee hurricane, and while Tea Cake and Janie survive it, Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog while saving Janie from drowning. He contracts the disease himself. He ultimately tries to shoot Janie with his pistol, but she shoots him with a rifle in self-defense. She is charged with murder. At the trial, Tea Cake's black, male friends show up to oppose her, while a group of local white women arrive to support her. The all-white jury acquits Janie, and she gives Tea Cake a lavish funeral. Tea Cake's friends forgive her, and they want her to remain in the Everglades. However, she decides to return to Eatonville, only to find the residents gossiping about her.
TEWWG: Janie Mae Crawford
The protagonist of the novel. Janie defies categorization: she is black but flaunts her Caucasian-like straight hair, which comes from her mixed ancestry; she is a woman but defies gender stereotypes by insisting on her independence and wearing overalls. Behind her defiance are a curiosity and confidence that drive her to experience the world and become conscious of her relation to it. Part of Janie's maturity rests in her ability to realize that others' cruelty toward her or their inability to understand her stems not from malice but from their upbringing or limited perspective.
TEWWG: Tea Cake
Janie's third husband and first real love. Twelve years younger than Janie, Tea Cake impresses her with his quick wit and zest for living. But behind the flash, he has a real affection for, and understanding of, Janie. He doesn't try to force Janie to be anything other than herself, and he treats her with respect. He is not without faults, however; he does steal from her once and beat her. These reprehensible incidents, though, make him a more real character than one who possesses only idealized positive qualities.
TEWWG: Jody Starks
Janie's second husband. Jody, as Janie calls him, travels from Georgia to Eatonville to satisfy his ambition and hunger for power. A consummate politician and businessman, he becomes the postmaster, mayor, storekeeper, and biggest landlord in Eatonville. But he treats Janie as an object rather than a person, and their marriage deteriorates.
TEWWG: Logan Killicks
Janie's first husband. Nanny arranges Janie's marriage to Logan because she values financial security and respectability over love. Logan pampers Janie for a year before he tries to make her help him with the farming work. Feeling used and unloved, Janie leaves him for Jody Starks.
TEWWG: Phoeby Watson
Janie's best friend in Eatonville. Pheoby gives Janie the benefit of the doubt when the townspeople gossip viciously about Janie. She is the audience for Janie's story and her presence is occasionally felt in the colloquial speech that the narrator mixes in with a more sophisticated narrative style.
TEWWG: Nanny Crawford
Janie's grandmother. Nanny's experience as a slave stamped her worldview with a strong concern for financial security, respectability, and upward mobility. These values clash with Janie's independence and desire to experience the world, though Janie comes to respect Nanny's values and decisions as well intended.
TEWWG: Mr. and Mrs. Turner
Everglades residents who run a small restaurant. Mrs. Turner prides herself on her Caucasian features and disdains anyone with a more African appearance. She worships Janie because of her Caucasian features. She cannot understand why a woman like Janie would marry a man as dark as Tea Cake, and she wants to introduce Janie to her brother.
TEWWG: Sam Watson
Pheoby's husband. Sam Watson is a source of great humor and wisdom during the conversations on Jody's porch. When a few Eatonville residents begin to express their resentment toward Jody, Sam acknowledges that Jody can be overbearing and commanding but points out that Jody is responsible for many improvements in the town.
TEWWG: Leafy Crawford
Janie's mother. Leafy was born shortly before the end of the Civil War and ran away after giving birth to Janie.
TEWWG: Amos Hicks
A resident of Eatonville, Florida. Hicks is one of the first people to meet Janie and Jody. He tries unsuccessfully to lure Janie away from Jody.
TEWWG: Motor Boat
One of Tea Cake and Janie's friends in the Everglades. Motor Boat flees the hurricane with them and weathers the storm in an abandoned house.
TEWWG: Hezekiah Potts
The delivery boy and assistant shopkeeper at Jody's store. After Jody's death, Hezekiah begins to mimic Jody's affectations.
TEWWG: Dr. Simmons
A friendly white doctor who is well known in the muck.
TEWWG: Johnny Taylor
A young man whom Janie kisses when she starts to feel sexual desires at age sixteen. This incident prompts Nanny to force Janie to marry the more socially respectable Logan Killicks.
TEWWG: Annie Taylor and Who Flung
A wealthy widow who lived in Eatonville, and her much younger fiancé, who took her money and fled at the first opportunity. Early in her marriage to Tea Cake, Janie fears that he will turn out to be like Who Flung and that she will end up like Annie Tyler.
TEWWG: Mr. and Mrs. Washburn
Nanny's employers after she became a free woman. Nanny lived in a house in the Washburn's backyard, and they helped raise Janie with their own children.
A girl in the Everglades who flirts relentlessly with Tea Cake. Janie grows extremely jealous of Nunkie, but after Tea Cake reassures her that Nunkie means nothing to him, Nunkie disappears from the novel.
Their Eyes Were Watching God: Themes
Language: Speech and Silence
Their Eyes Were Watching God is most often celebrated for Hurston's unique use of language, particularly her mastery of rural Southern black dialect. Throughout the novel, she utilizes an interesting narrative structure, splitting the presentation of the story between high literary narration and idiomatic discourse. The long passages of discourse celebrate the culturally rich voices of Janie's world; these characters speak as do few others in American literature, and their distinctive grammar, vocabulary, and tone mark their individuality.
Hurston's use of language parallels Janie's quest to find her voice. As Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes in the afterword to most modern editions of the book, Their Eyes Were Watching God is primarily concerned "with the project of finding a voice, with language as an instrument of injury and salvation, of selfhood and empowerment." Jody stifles Janie's speech, as when he prevents her from talking after he is named mayor; her hatred of him stems from this suppression of her individuality. Tea Cake, on the other hand, engages her speech, conversing with her and putting himself on equal terms with her; her love for him stems from his respect for her individuality.
After Janie discovers her ability to define herself by her speech interactions with others, she learns that silence too can be a source of empowerment; having found her voice, she learns to control it. Similarly, the narrator is silent in conspicuous places, neither revealing why Janie isn't upset with Tea Cake's beating nor disclosing her words at the trial. In terms of both the form of the novel and its thematic content, Hurston places great emphasis on the control of language as the source of identity and empowerment.
Power and Conquest as Means to Fulfillment
Whereas Janie struggles to assert a place for herself by undertaking a spiritual journey toward love and self-awareness, Jody attempts to achieve fulfillment through the exertion of power. He tries to purchase and control everyone and everything around him; he exercises his authority hoping to subordinate his environment to his will. He labors under the illusion that he can control the world around him and that, by doing so, he will achieve some sense of profound fulfillment. Others exhibit a similar attitude toward power and control; even Tea Cake, for example, is filled with hubris as the hurricane whips up, certain that he can survive the storm through his mastery of the muck. For both Jody and Tea Cake, the natural world reveals the limits of human power. In Jody's case, as disease sets in, he begins to lose the illusion that he can control his world; the loss of authority over Janie as she talks back to him furthers this disillusionment. In Tea Cake's case, he is forced to flee the hurricane and struggles to survive the ensuing floods. This limit to the scope of one's power proves the central problem with Jody's power-oriented approach toward achieving fulfillment: ultimately, Jody can neither stop his deterioration nor silence Janie's strong will.
Love and Relationships versus Independence
Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of how Janie achieves a strong sense of self and comes to appreciate her independence. But her journey toward enlightenment is not undertaken alone. The gender differences that Hurston espouses require that men and women provide each other things that they need but do not possess. Janie views fulfilling relationships as reciprocal and based on mutual respect, as demonstrated in her relationship with Tea Cake, which elevates Janie into an equality noticeably absent from her marriages to Logan and Jody.
Although relationships are implied to be necessary to a fulfilling life, Janie's quest for spiritual fulfillment is fundamentally a self-centered one. She is alone at the end yet seems content. She liberates herself from her unpleasant and unfulfilling relationships with Logan and Jody, who hinder her personal journey. Through her relationship with Tea Cake, Janie experiences true fulfillment and enlightenment and becomes secure in her independence. She feels a deep connection to the world around her and even feels that the spirit of Tea Cake is with her. Thus, even though she is alone, she doesn't feel alone.
Their Eyes Were Watching God: Motifs
As Janie returns to Eatonville, the novel focuses on the porch-sitters who gossip and speculate about her situation. In Eatonville and the Everglades, particularly, the two most significant settings in the novel, Janie constantly interacts with the community around her. At certain times, she longs to be a part of this vibrant social life, which, at its best, offers warmth, safety, connection, and interaction for Janie. In Chapter 18, for example, when Tea Cake, Janie, and Motor Boat seek shelter from the storm, the narrator notes that they "sat in company with the others in other shanties"; of course, they are not literally sitting in the same room as these others, but all of those affected by the hurricane share a communal bond, united against the overwhelming, impersonal force of the hurricane.
At other times, however, Janie scorns the pettiness of the gossip and rumors that flourish in these communities, which often criticize her out of jealousy for her independence and strong will. These communities, exemplifying a negative aspect of unity, demand the sacrifice of individuality. Janie refuses to make this sacrifice, but even near the end of the book, during the court trial, "it [i]s not death she fear[s]. It [i]s misunderstanding." In other words, Janie still cares what people in the community think because she still longs to understand herself.
Race and Racism
Because Zora Neale Hurston was a famous black author who was associated with the Harlem Renaissance, many readers assume that Their Eyes Were Watching God is concerned primarily with issues of race. Although race is a significant motif in the book, it is not, by any means, a central theme. As Alice Walker writes in her dedication to I Love Myself When I Am Laughing . . . and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader, "I think we are better off if we think of Zora Neale Hurston as an artist, period—rather than as the artist/politician most black writers have been required to be." Along the same lines, it is far more fulfilling to read Janie's story as a profoundly human quest than as a distinctly black one.
But issues of race are nonetheless present. Janie and Tea Cake experience prejudice from both blacks and whites at significant moments in the book. Two moments in particular stand out: Janie's interactions, in Chapter 16, with Mrs. Turner, a black woman with racist views against blacks, and the courtroom scene, in Chapter 19, after which Janie is comforted by white women but scorned by her black friends. In these moments, we see that racism in the novel operates as a cultural construct, a free-floating force that affects anyone, white or black, weak enough to succumb to it. Hurston's perspective on racism was undoubtedly influenced by her study with influential anthropologist Franz Boas, who argued that ideas of race are culturally constructed and that skin color indicates little, if anything, about innate difference. In other words, racism is a cultural force that individuals can either struggle against or yield to rather than a mindset rooted in demonstrable facts. In this way, racism operates in the novel just like the hurricane and the doctrine to which Jody adheres; it is an environmental force that challenges Janie in her quest to achieve harmony with the world around her.
The Folklore Quality of Religion
As the title indicates, God plays a huge role in the novel, but this God is not really the Judeo-Christian god. The book maintains an almost Gnostic perspective on the universe: God is not a single entity but a diffuse force. This outlook is particularly evident in the mystical way that Hurston describes nature. At various times, the sun, moon, sky, sea, horizon, and other aspects of the natural world appear imbued with divinity. The God in the title refers to these divine forces throughout the world, both beautiful and threatening, that Janie encounters. Her quest is a spiritual one because her ultimate goal is to find her place in the world, understand who she is, and be at peace with her environment.
Thus, except for one brief reference to church in Chapter 12, organized religion never appears in the novel. The idea of spirituality, on the other hand, is always present, as the novel espouses a worldview rooted in folklore and mythology. As an anthropologist, Hurston collected rural mythology and folklore of blacks in America and the Caribbean. Many visions of mysticism that she presents in the novel—her haunting personification of Death, the idea of a sun-god, the horizon as a boundary at the end of the world—are likely culled directly from these sources. Like her use of dialogue, Hurston's presentation of folklore and non-Christian spirituality celebrates the black rural culture.
Their Eyes Were Watching God: Symbols
Janie's hair is a symbol of her power and unconventional identity; it represents her strength and individuality in three ways. First, it represents her independence and defiance of petty community standards. The town's critique at the very beginning of the novel demonstrates that it is considered undignified for a woman of Janie's age to wear her hair down. Her refusal to bow down to their norms clearly reflects her strong, rebellious spirit. Second, her hair functions as a phallic symbol; her braid is constantly described in phallic terms and functions as a symbol of a typically masculine power and potency, which blurs gender lines and thus threatens Jody. Third, her hair, because of its straightness, functions as a symbol of whiteness; Mrs. Turner worships Janie because of her straight hair and other Caucasian characteristics. Her hair contributes to the normally white male power that she wields, which helps her disrupt traditional power relationships (male over female, white over black) throughout the novel.
The Pear Tree and the Horizon
The pear tree and the horizon represent Janie's idealized views of nature. In the bees' interaction with the pear tree flowers, Janie witnesses a perfect moment in nature, full of erotic energy, passionate interaction, and blissful harmony. She chases after this ideal throughout the rest of the book. Similarly, the horizon represents the far-off mystery of the natural world, with which she longs to connect. Janie's hauling in of her horizon "like a great fish-net" at the end of the novel indicates that she has achieved the harmony with nature that she has sought since the moment under the pear tree.
The hurricane represents the destructive fury of nature. As such, it functions as the opposite of the pear tree and horizon imagery: whereas the pear tree and horizon stand for beauty and pleasure, the hurricane demonstrates how chaotic and capricious the world can be. The hurricane makes the characters question who they are and what their place in the universe is. Its impersonal nature—it is simply a force of pure destruction, lacking consciousness and conscience—makes the characters wonder what sort of world they live in, whether God cares about them at all, and whether they are fundamentally in conflict with the world around them. In the face of the hurricane, Janie and the other characters wonder how they can possibly survive in a world filled with such chaos and pain.
Author: Lousie Erdrich
Love Medicine: Setting
Turtle Mountain Indian Reserve in North Dakota
Love Medicine: Plot
Chapter 1 opens in 1981 with June Morrissey in Williston, North Dakota, an oil boom town, after she has left Gordie Kashpaw and her son yet again. She dies trying to walk home in a snow storm. Part two of chapter one is in the first person voice of Albertine Johnson, June's niece, who receives a letter from her mother informing her that her Aunt June is dead and buried. Her mother did not invite her to the funeral, and as a result, Albertine refuses to speak to her. Two months after receiving the letter, Albertine goes home to the reservation. Albertine tells stories about June: her mother dying, father running away, marrying her cousin, leaving Gordie and King Kashpaw, returning only to leave again. During Albertine's visit to the main house (where all Kashpaws were welcome), the entire family gathers. This opening chapter sets the tone for the subsequent altering of perspectives and going back through history.
In Chapters 2, 3, and 4 we become acquainted with Marie, Nector, and Lulu (the love triangle the novel is centered on) as young adults in and around the year 1934. We learn that Marie once wanted to be a nun and never really liked the Lazarre side of her family. Nector was always in love with Lulu but married Marie for reasons unbeknownst to him. We learn that Lulu always assumed she and Nector would be married, but when she found out about Marie, she went to Moses Pillager (Lulu's cousin and well-known medicine man) but left him, taking her first child (Gerry Nanapush) back home when Moses refused to move out from the wilderness.
In Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 Erdrich explores the complexities of parenthood and infidelity for Marie, Nector and Lulu. We are acquainted with Lulu's 9 children and Marie's 7 children. Chapter 5 occurs in 1948; chapters 6, 7, and 8 occur in 1957. Chapter five deals with June being adopted by Marie, and later raised by Eli. Part two of chapter 5 is about the controlling power and rage of Marie's mother-in-law, Rushes Bear. Marie gradually warms up to Rushes Bear. In chapter 6 we learn about the death of Lulu's first (legal) husband, Henry Lamartine and Lulu's affair with his brother, Beverly Lamartine, during Henry's funeral. Years later, Beverly decides to go home to the reservation and claim his son, Henry Jr. Instead, Beverly is seduced by Lulu, forgets about claiming his son, and returns to the city. Chapter 7 is the turning point in the novel, because this is where the love triangle (Marie, Lulu and Nector) gets demolished. Nector and Lulu begin an affair that will last five years and produce a son, Lyman Lamartine. Then, Nector decides to leave Marie and marry Lulu. He leaves a note for Marie (which she later ignores completely), and takes a letter to Lulu. But while Nector waits for Lulu he accidentally burns down her home. When Lulu runs in to save her son, she burns all her hair off and it never grows back.
Chapters 9 and 10 focus on the brothers Henry Lamartine Jr. and Lyman Lamartine in 1973 and 1974. Chapter 9 recounts Albertine Johnson running away from home as a 15-year-old. She meets Henry Lamartine Jr., and loses her virginity to him. Chapter 10 is about Henry Jr. and Lyman and the car they bought together. Lyman recounts the many road trips before Henry Jr. went off to war, before he returned a very changed man. Their first road trip afterward turns out to be tragic: Henry Jr. jumps into the river, toward his death, and try as he might, Lyman could neither find nor save him.
Chapters 11 through 18 occur between the years 1980 and 1985, when Nector enters his "second childhood" and Marie and Lulu become friends in the retirement community.
Chapter 11 shows Albertine working with Gerry Nanapush's girlfriend at a weigh station. We learn that Gerry Nanapush is a prisoner and frequent escapee.
Chapter 12 focuses on Gordie's alcoholism following June's death. He has nearly drunk himself to death when one night he thinks he sees June's ghost. He goes to the car not thinking about how drunk he is and subsequently runs into a deer. He decides to put the deer in the backseat but forgets this and hallucinates that he has in fact killed June. He panics and goes to the convent where he drunkenly confesses to a nun. The police are called and Gordie runs away.
Chapter 13, entitled "Love Medicine (1982)" is central to the book. We learn that the entire family of Kashpaws/Pillagers/Nanapushes had/have special gifts of healing and insight. Lipsha Morrissey says, "I got the touch." As we learn from Lyman later in the novel, the Pillagers were members of the Midewiwin (medicine men and women who were blessed by the Higher Power to help others.
Nector has entered his "second childhood" and is unbearable for Marie because all he refers to is Lulu who is living in the retirement community with Marie and Nector. Lipsha is relatively young, 18 or 19 years old when his adopted grandmother, Marie, asks him to work love medicine on Nector. Love medicine, as Lipsha explains it, should always be used with extreme caution. Lipsha and Marie plot how to get Nector to eat a male goose heart while Marie eats a female goose heart. Lipsha chooses geese because they mate for life, and Marie wants him to be faithful. Nector refuses it and taunts Marie by putting the heart in his mouth but not swallowing. Marie is furious and smacks Nector on the back to make him swallow, but instead Nector chokes to death. Naturally, Lipsha and Marie are grieved, but by the end of the chapter Marie says, "Lipsha... you was always my favorite."
Chapter 14 shows of Marie nursing Gordie through his sickness (alcoholism).
Chapter 15 is Lulu's 1st person perspective. Lulu tells the story of her house burning down, and subsequently, the ending of her affair with Nector. The day Nector dies, Lulu is in recovery from surgery (possibly the removal of cataracts). Because the facility is short on aides, Marie offers to take care of Lulu. This begins an unexpected and often difficult friendship between the two matriarchs of the extended family.
Chapter 16 (moved to the P.S. section in the 2009 edition) is told from Lyman's 1st person perspective. He is crushed by Henry Jr.'s death and takes a year to mourn him. Eventually, Lyman ends up in Indian politics and policy. Ironically, he is re-assigned by the BIA to set up the factory his father (Nector Kashpaw) had begun years earlier.
After a workers riot, Lyman closes the factory and, by chapter 17 (entire chapter deleted from the 2009 edition), has a grand idea for the building: bingo, and later, a sex house. He has made up his mind, and the reader knows that he will succeed.
In chapter 18, Lipsha is back at the retirement community when Lulu demands that he speak with her. She tells him about his parentage (which everyone on the reservation knows except Lipsha). She tells him because she has little to lose: "I either gain a grandson or lose a young man who didn't like me in the first place." Lipsha goes to visit King (his half-brother) to learn more about his Gerry, who does escape prison that very night and meets Lipsha: "So many things in the world have happened before. But it's like they never did. Every new thing that happens to a person, it's a first. To be a son to a father was like that. In that night I felt expansion, as if the world was branching out in shoots and growing faster than the eye could see." Lipsha drives Gerry to Canada.
Love Medicine: Marie Lazarre Kashpaw
(wife to Nector Kashpaw) She has five children by Nector (Gordie, Zelda, Aurelia, Eugene and Patsy), and adopts her niece, June, and June's son, Lipsha.
Love Medicine: Nector Kashpaw
(son of Rushes Bear and Kashpaw, husband to Marie Lazarre Kashpaw). Chairman of the community by default. He has always been in love with Lulu and years into his marriage to Marie he has a five-year affair with Lulu Nanapush Lamartine and begets Lyman Lamartine. Nector never recognizes Lyman as his son.
Love Medicine: Lulu Nanapush Lamartine
(mother to Henry Lamartine, Jr., Lyman Lamartine, Bonita Lamartine, Gerry Nanapush, and four other unnamed sons all with different fathers) Lulu first marries her cousin, Moses Pillager. She leaves him and marries Morrissey. After this marriage, she eventually marries Henry Lamartine who dies in a car accident involving a train, heavily implied to be suicide. She also has affairs with Beverly Lamartine, Nector Kashpaw, and an unnamed Mexican man.
Love Medicine: June Morrissey
(daughter of Marie's sister: half-Lazarre, half-Morrissey from the Pillager line, wife of Gordie Kashpaw, mother of King Kashpaw and Lipsha Morrissey) June is first adopted by Marie Kashpaw, but later is raised by Eli Kashpaw (the bachelor of the family). June runs away from Gordie and King, returns several times only to leave again. June dies in the first chapter (1981).
Love Medicine: Elli Kashpaw
(adopted father of June, son of Rushes Bear and Kashpaw, brother of Nector). While Nector went away to English school Eli was hidden by his mother and was raised in traditional Indian manner. He is the bachelor of the tribe, and raised June once she ran away to live with him.
Love Medicine: Gerry Nanapush
(son of Lulu and Moses Pillager) Gerry is a legend on the reservation. He is imprisoned and continues to escape from prison for decades. He had an affair with June Morrissey and begets Lipsha Morrissey.
Love Medicine: Albertine Johnson
(daughter of Zelda Kashpaw, granddaughter of Marie Kashpaw) Albertine is one of the Kashpaws that got off the reservation. She attends an unnamed university studying Western medicine.
Love Medicine: King Kashpaw
(son of June Morrissey and Gordie Kaspaw, married to Lynette, father of King Howard Kashpaw Jr.) King receives the insurance money from June's death and buys a new car with it.
Love Medicine: Lyman Lamartine
(son of Lulu and Nector) Lyman is very lucky when it comes to money and business. By the end of the novel he begins a business that effectively saves the Indian community on the reservation.
Love Medicine: Henry Lamartine Jr.
(son of Lulu and Beverly Lamartine) Henry goes to war and comes back very changed. He throws himself into a raging river and kills himself. It is unclear if he intentionally committed suicide.
Love Medicine: Lipsha Morrissey
(son of June Morrissey and Gerry Nanapush) Lipsha is adopted by Marie, just as Marie adopted his mother, June. Lipsha is unaware of his true parentage for many years, although everyone on the reservation is aware of the truth. His parentage is revealed by Lulu, his true grandmother. Lipsha continues his life and never forgets what he has experienced.
Love Medicine: Themes
The closeness and interconnectedness of the entire family/clan/tribe is emphasized. The Kashpaws and Pillagers were leaders of a community in the past before the move to the reservation. Their lineage and heritage was proud, but broken due to government policy that divided the clans and tribes.
Native American government policy is a recurrent topic, especially because the Kashpaw family is (according to Nector) "respected as the last hereditary leaders of this tribe." As we learn from Lyman later, the Pillagers were members of the Midewiwin (medicine men and women who were blessed by the Higher Power to help others): "The Pillagers had been the holdouts, the ones who wouldn't sign the treaties, the keepers of the birch bark scroll and practitioners of medicines so dark and helpful that the more devout Catholic Indians crossed their breasts when a Pillager happened to look straight at them." Native American politics and government policy actually turn out to be the family's saving grace as the novel describes gambling: "one of history's small ironies... to take money from retired white people who had farmed Indian hunting grounds, worked Indian jobs, lived high while their neighbors lived low, looked down or never noticed who was starving, who was lost" (327).
Loss of a cultural identity and Native American spirituality characterizes and separates the two generations in Love Medicine: "They gave you worthless land to start with and then they chopped it out from under your feet. They took your kids away and stuffed the English language in their mouth." The generations that Erdrich covers experience that loss of culture. The youngest family members (or, perhaps those who attend American schools) are socialized in an American tradition rather than a Native American tradition. With each passing of a generation, vital knowledge of the culture seems to be lost.
Author: Juan Rulfo
Pedro Paramo: Setting
Town of Comala. Mexico
Pedro Paramo: Possible Plotline
The sequence of events for the plot is broken up in the work and is at times difficult to discern. Each plot event is stated and then defined in more detail.
Fulgor Sedano arrives at Media Luna: His old patrón, Lucas, told him that Pedro is totally useless and that he should go and get a new job when he dies.
Pedro's grandfather dies: His family prays for him after his death to help shorten his time in Purgatory. Pedro himself does not feel like doing this and instead thinks about Susana.
Susana San Juan and Pedro Páramo play during their childhood: Pedro thinks about this often. They would fly kites near the village and Pedro would help Susana fly hers. He is scolded for taking so long in the outhouse by his mother, while he recalls this event.
Senora San Juan dies. This event is assumed since Dorotea cannot remember seeing Susana with her mother ever. Susana also talks about how her mother died. She recounts that she was sickly and never visited anyone and how no one came to her funeral. Susana laments about having to pay for Gregorian masses for her mother and the heartless transaction of money required to be able to do that.
The San Juan family moves to the mining region. Not much is known about this other than they lived there for many years and later returned to Comala.
Susana and her Father explore the Andromeda mine. Señor San Juan drops Susana, at the end of a rope, down into the old mine shaft and tells her to look for gold coins. She is unable to find any, only a skeleton.
Lucas Páramo was killed: He was shot at a wedding by a bullet that was meant for the bridegroom. Pedro later killed most of the people at that wedding. He also permanently crippled a man which Juan hears about in the grave.
Florencio dies (exact time unknown). Susana's husband dies and she tragically becomes mad. She still thinks that he is living. She stayed up late that night waiting for him, but he never arrived at home and in the morning she found out that he was dead.
Fulgor Sedano tells Pedro about his father's debts: Sedano had avoided Pedro in the past because of the warnings of Lucas, but stayed on the hacienda because he loved the land. He has to tell Pedro about the debts. Pedro answers that: "I'm not interested in how much, just to whom." They concoct a plan get Dolores Preciado to marry him to eliminate the debt to her family.
Sedano and Dolores Preciado talk: Sedano tells her a lie about how much Pedro had wanted her and that he is really a very shy man. To this, she replies that she is having her period and cannot be married so soon. Sedano is scornful of this reason.
Osorio warns Dolores Preciado not to sleep with Pedro on her wedding night. She beg Eduviges Dyada to go and sleep with Pedro in her place. Eduviges does this, but Pedro is too drunk to have sex.
Miguel Páramo is killed by his horse: He is going to Contla to visit his girlfriend and to have sex with her when he attempts save time on his journey by jumping his horse over a fence that his father had built. His horse's name is El Colorado, and it was said that this horse would be the death of him one day. His ghost came back to tell Dyada about this.
Miguel Páramo is absolved by the Church: Father Rentería absolves him after Pedro Páramo gives him some gold coins. The priest realizes that he cannot afford to anger the leader of the town, Pedro, by not doing so. The priest is upset that he absolved his brother's killer and niece's rapist.
Rentería talks to his confessor: He is not forgiven of his sins as he did not give absolution to the dying. The other priest chastises him for not doing his job and saying that the people of Comala believe in God more out of superstition rather than actual adoration. They talk about how the land is bitter in Mexico.
Dorotea Confesses: Dorotea goes to Father Rentería and tells him that she was the one who was procuring girls for Miguel Páramo. She is drunk at Miguel's wake. She tells the priest that she had brought girls for Miguel for years and years and that she had lost count of how many she had gotten. The Padre said that there is nothing that he is able to do about it. He cannot forgive her and says that she will not "go to Heaven now."
Toribio Aldrete is hung: He was plotted against by Fulgor Sedano and Pedro Páramo who accused him of "falsifying boundaries". Toribio owned some land that Páramo wanted to add to his hacienda. Pedro orders Sedano to write charges for Aldrete's conviction. One night Aldrete is drunk and goes into Eduviges Dyada'a house (the corner room) and is hung. He is left to "turn to leather" and to never have salvation. The key to the room is thrown out. Ironically, Eduviges gives Juan Preciado this room in her house in which to stay the night. He then hears an echo of the past while sleeping and awakens suddenly.
Dolores Preciado (Juan's mother) leaves Pedro Páramo and the Media Luna hacienda: She is looking at a crow in the sky and says that she wishes that she was this bird and could fly to her sister's house in the city. Pedro becomes angry enough to finally dismiss her. She leaves and never returns. She and Pedro are never divorced.
Eduviges Dyada kills herself: Her sister. Maria Dyada, tells Father Rentería that it was out of despair. "She died of her sorrows." But the priest laments that all her good work has gone by the wayside and that she will be unable to get into heaven. The priest says that only with prayers will she be able to get into heaven and even then nothing is certain.
Start of the Mexican Revolution
Return of the San Juans: Señor Bartolomé San Juan refuses to read the letters from Pedro asking him to come and be his administrator. He is finally found and comes back to Comala only because the Revolution makes the countryside dangerous. He finds out the Pedro wants only his daughter.
Señor San Juan dies: Before, while working, he had realized that he would die and that he must die. Additionally, Sedano and Pedro conspire to have him killed. He dies and goes to heaven. His "spirit" comes to say goodbye to Susana. Susana laughs that he came to say goodbye to her while Justina cries. He must have been killed since his ghost does not haunt the town.
Fulgor Sedano is killed: A scared man comes to Pedro's house with the news. He says that the revolutionaries stopped him and Sedano and told Sedano to run and tell Pedro that they were coming for him and then shot him as he ran.
Pedro joins Revolution: He calls the local revolutionaries to his house for supper. He promises to give them much money and support, even more than they had asked for. By doing this he managed to remain safe and preventing the soldiers from attacking his lands.
El Tilcuate, the revolutionary leader, and Pedro talk: Pedro tells Damasio that he has no more money to give to him to fight and that he should go and raid a larger town to get supplies.
Susana San Juan dies: She refuses absolution by the priest. She is simply waiting for death to come and take her. Father Renteria gave her communion, but she is semi-delirious and is talking to Florencio. Susana says that she "wants to be left in peace." She dies without receiving the last sacraments.
The party: The people of Comala have a large fiesta which is full of drinking and wild revelry. This greatly annoyed Pedro who wanted people to mourn his loss of Susana. He says, "I will cross my arms and Comala will die of hunger." And that is what happened
Refugia Martinez dies: This is the wife of Abundio. He had stayed up all night with her and she had died in the morning. He is out to get drunk to forget his troubles. He goes to the Villalpando's store to do so.
Damiana Cisneros's slaying: Abundio Martínez frightens Cisneros and she begins to scream. In his drunken state he becomes confused and begins to stab her. While doing so, he thinks about his wife and that he only wanted money for her burial. He is then captured and dragged back into town.
Pedro Páramo dies: He is stabbed by his illegitimate son, Abundio. Pedro dies after think about Susana. It can be discerned that with her death, he died too. He realizes that he cannot move his arms and the ghost (apparently) of Cisneros comes to him and then he dies.
Dolores Preciado dies: Her death wish is for Juan to find his father and get what he deserves from him after all of these years.
Juan Preciado comes to Comala: He meets the ghosts of:
He is taken in by Donis and his sister/wife.: He is scared to death.
Juan and Dorotea are buried in the same grave.
Pedro Paramo: Abundio Martinez
Burro driver who leads Juan to Comala. He is also the son of Pedro Paramo. Juan learns later that Abundio has been dead for a long time.
Pedro Paramo: Comala
Town in the state of Jalisco, in Mexico, where Juan Preciado arrives searching for his Father
Pedro Paramo: Damiana Cisneros
She works at the Media Luna and also she meets Juan in his journey in Comala. She is murdered by Abundio Martínez at the end of the book.
Pedro Paramo: Dolores Preciado
(Doloritas) Mother of Juan Preciado. She was the owner of the "Rancho de Enmedio". Pedro Páramo married her and took the ranch from her.Then he sent her away to her sister's. They never met again.
Pedro Paramo: Donis and Sister/Wife
Juan encounters this couple while wandering in Comala. They take him in and shortly after Juan dies.
Pedro Paramo: Dorotea
Crazy woman who lived of the charity of the town. She provided girls for Miguel Páramo. She is buried with Juan in the same coffin and tells him the story of Pedro Páramo, Susana San Juan and the rest of Comala
Pedro Paramo: Eduviges Dyada
Owner of a house in Comala where Juan arrives. He spends the night there, then learns that she has been dead for decades.
Pedro Paramo: Father Renteria
He is the town's priest. He doesn't fulfill his job by not giving absolution to the dying. As a consequence, those who didn't die in grace wander around looking for salvation.
Pedro Paramo: Fulgor Sedano
Administrator of the Media Luna. He helped Pedro Páramo obtain (illegally) the lands that made him the cacique. He is killed by revolutionaries at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution (1911)
Pedro Paramo: Juan Preciado
One of many sons of Pedro Paramo, arrives in Comala and dies there. He is buried in the same coffin with Dorotea. Most of the narration is Juan telling the story of his arrival in Comala to Dorotea.
Pedro Paramo: Miguel Paramo
Another son of PP. He was taken in by his father when he was an infant. He gets killed on a horse accident when he is around 17, but he was already guilty of a murder and numerous rapes.
Pedro Paramo: Pedro Paramo
Father of Juan Preciado, "cacique" of Comala, desperately in love with Susana San Juan. His death means the end of Comala and is also the last scene of the book.
Pedro Paramo: Themes
One theme is that the hopes and dreams of people will give them the motivation that is needed to succeed. Hope is the largest motive for each character in the work. Dolores tells her son, Juan, to return to Comala with the hope that he will find his father and get what he deserves after all of these years. Juan goes to Comala instilled with that hope that he will meet up with his father and finally know who he is. He fails at this challenge and dies of fear and not with hope. Pedro hopes that Susana San Juan will return to him after all of these years. He had a childhood crush on her and remembers flying kites with her from when he was a child. When she returns to him, she is crazy and lives as if her first husband is still alive. But nevertheless, Pedro has hope that she will eventually come to love him. Dorotea says that Pedro truly did love Susana and wanted nothing but the best for her. The Padre lives with the hope that he will someday be able to fully fulfill his vows as a Catholic priest and tell Pedro that his son will not go to heaven, rather hell, instead of pardoning him of his sins for a lump sum of gold because he is too poor to make ends meet otherwise. Along with the theme of hope in the work is despair. All of the characters in the work have had their hope meet with cold despair and none of their attempts have come to any success. Another theme is ghosts and the ethereal nature of the truth. The entire town is a ghost town, when Juan arrives it. The reader slowly realizes that this is true. For example, with Damiana Cisneros, Juan believes that she is alive. He walks through the town wit until he smells a rat wit her telling him that she knew that he was in town. This causes him to nervously question, "Damiana Cisneros, are you alive?" This encounter shows the truth as quickly fleeting, always changing, and never able to be pinned down and examined. It is difficult to truly know who is dead and who is alive in Comala, and sometimes the order and nature of events that occur in the work. Additionally, the reader believes that the they are read in the work as it happens but on page 66 the truth is rapidly changed as they find it out it is a flashback to the grave with Dorotea and Juan telling her of his experiences.