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Short Story Study Guide

protagonist

What role does Juan play in the story?

He carelessly sends a letter to Mariana, and then becomes a censor to find and get rid of the letter before it is discovered.

Brief description of Juan.

Round - determined, self-centered, manipulative

Is Juan a round or flat character, and why?

Dynamic - starts with good intentions to keep Mariana and himself safe, but then starts to work against the people and for the government as a brainwashed censor.

Is Juan a dynamic or static character, and why?

antagonist

What role do the censorship rules play in the story?

The rules of censorship put Juan and Mariana in danger when Juan sends a letter to Mariana. Juan is initially against the censorship and tries to work around it, but ends up supporting the censorship and abandoning his own morals in the process.

Brief description of the rules of censorship.

Flat - does not have any human characteristics (because it is not human).

Are the rules of censorship a round or flat character, and why?

Static - the censorship rules remain the same throughout the entire story.

Are the rules of censorship a dynamic or static character, and why?

minor character

What role does Mariana play in the story?

She is Juan's friend who is the recipient of Juan's carelessly sent letter. She lives in Paris and is oblivious to all the trouble Juan is going through to find his letter to her.

Brief description of Mariana.

Flat - oblivious.

Is Mariana a round or flat character, and why?

Static - does not change at all in the story.

Is Mariana a dynamic or static character, and why?

minor character

What role does Juan's mother play in the story?

She is Juan's mother who is concerned about Juan but cannot stop him from getting carried away with his job as a censor.

Brief description of Juan's mother.

Flat - caring, loving mother to Juan

Is Juan's mother a round or flat character, and why?

Static - does not change.

Is Juan's mother a dynamic or static character, and why?

1970s: significant because at this time in history this country was undergoing censorship and other human rights violations, which are the main issues represented in the story. Sending letters was a risky business at this time.

What is the time setting of the story?

Argentina: significant because Argentina was under the power of a brutal military regime that used censorship and violated other human rights.

What is the location setting of the story?

The Post Office's Censorship Division building: Juan starts work in this building as a censor and is brainwashed into supporting the system of censoring. Juan causes his own execution by censoring his own letter at this building.

What is the specific place central to the story?

Third person, limited (able to know Juan's thoughts only): The author chose this point of view to show Juan's thoughts and motives when he first becomes a censor, and how those thoughts and motives change in the process of being brainwashed into promoting censorship. This point of view also shows the isolation of the people under control of an oppressive government and how a person in a situation such as Juan's would act.

What is the point of view in the story?

Juan tries to go around the censorship laws of the government by becoming a censor only to find his letter and get rid of it (man versus society -- Juan versus the censorship rules).

What is the main conflict in the story? Is the conflict internal or external, and why?

Although Juan is against censorship, he turns in his coworkers to his boss with their plan for a strike, which leads to Juan's promotion and the punishment of his coworkers (man versus man). Juan ignores his mother's concern for him (man versus man).

What are the other two external conflicts in the story?

Juan has a continual worry about the letter he sent to Mariana and whether or not he should have sent it. Juan is confused between loyalty and disloyalty for censorship. Both are man versus himself.

What are the two internal conflicts in the story?

Juan lives in a country of censorship (presumably Argentina) in the 1970s, and learns Mariana's address.

What is the exposition of the story?

Juan sends a letter to Mariana.

What is the inciting incident of the story?

Juan becomes a censor. He tells his boss of his coworkers' plan of a strike, just for his own gain. Juan over-censors and becomes censors innocent people's letters. He ignores the concern of his mother and friends. He is promoted repeatedly for ruthlessly censoring innocent letters.

What is the development of the story?

Juan finds the letter that he wrote to Mariana.

What is the climax of the story?

Juan automatically censors his own letter because he is obsessed with his job.

What is the resolution of the story?

Juan is executed the next day as a consequence of his own censored letter.

What is the denouement of the story?

Irony of Situation: Juan is against the censors, yet he becomes a censor; Juan censors his own letter. This is ironic because his original intention for becoming a censor was to avoid having his own letter censored; Juan's motives for becoming a censor were not checked. Despite his original motives, he is "good" at his job because he is brainwashed by the censorship rules. The business did not care who were hired because they could indoctrinate them and bring them to their side.

How is situational irony used in the story?

Juan censors letters because of simple, innocent phrases (such as the weather). He is brainwashed to look too hard and is delusional in this way. Juan and his company think he is doing a good job as a censor, but the reader knows he is actually doing a bad job because he is censoring innocent letters.

How is dramatic irony used in the story?

Satire is a literary work that ridicules the foolishness and thoughts of individuals in institution, society, and even humanity in general. The story is humorous in an absurd way because the reasons for Juan's death were bizarre, unexpected, and not just.

What is satire, and how is it used in the story?

Sometimes you are your own enemy. It is easy to lose sight of what is important when fear is your motivation. Your priorities can change when you have different expectations for yourself.

What is the theme(s) of the story?

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