Pedro Paramo Summary

Juan Rulfo

Pedro Paramo

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Pedro Paramo Summary

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Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo is a relatively short novel that nevertheless contains a complex structure built of interweaving passages that jump between characters, narrative perspectives, and time periods, often without explanation. It opens with one of the principle narrators, Juan Preciado, explaining that his mother recently died and, on her deathbed, told him to travel to Comala, the village where she grew up, to find his father, Pedro Páramo. On his way to Comala, he meets Abundio who says that Pedro was his father, too, but that he died a long time ago. When Juangets to the village he finds it rundown and desolate. He goes to see Eduviges Dyada, a woman whom Abundio had said he should visit. When he finds her, she says that his dead mother told her to expect him and explains that the dead wander Comala. She informs him that Abundio also died a long time ago and, after he hears a horse ride past them, tells the story of Miguel Páramo, Pedro’s son who died while riding his horse. This narrative is intermingled with the story of Pedro’s childhood, his longing for a girl called Susana who used to live in the village, and his anger at his father’s death.

Next, the reader learns of Father Rentería, a priest who takes payments from the Páramo family in exchange for blessings and forgiveness. He is disgusted with himself, partly for blessing Miguel Páramo’s dead body even though the boy raped his niece, and partly for refusing to bless Eduviges Dyada’s body after she killed herself. In the present, Juan stays in a room belonging to Eduviges Dyada (whom the reader now knows is also dead) but he fails to sleep because of the ghostly cries and howls. His mother’s childhood friend arrives and tells him that they are the cries of a man his father, Pedro, murdered for resisting his attempts to control the whole of the Media Luna, the lands around Comala. The novel then shifts to the tale of Pedro, now an adult, plotting with a foreman don Fulgor Sedano who is helping him take control of Media Luna. They scheme to clear Pedro’s father’s old debts by having Pedro seduce women from the families to whom he owes money, starting with Juan’s mother, Dolorita, whom Pedro marries.

Back in Juan’s present, a woman invites him into her home,where he meets her brother, Donis, and learns that they are having a disturbing incestuous relationship. He stays the night and, when he awakes the next day, the woman explains how terribly miserable and traumatized she is. He passes in and out of sleep for several days, and then wakes up next to the woman, who says that her brother has gone so Juan can look after her now. He wakes up again later and flees into the street but is unable to breath and dies in the town square. Although he has died, Juan wakes again and finds that he is now buried with a woman called Dorotea. When the novel returns to Pedro’s tale, the reader learns that Dorotea was a slow, simple woman whom Pedro’s son Miguel payed to bring him women to abuse. The reader also sees Pedro unaffected by the news that Miguel has died after falling from his horse, in the incident described to Juan earlier in the novel. Meanwhile, Father Rentería continues to feel guilty for absolving the Páramo family while refusing to absolve any of Comala’s other residents, something which he acknowledges he does because he himself was refused absolution from a fellow priest.

In the present, still underground, Dorotea talks to Juan about Susana, the girl Pedro pined for after she left the village.She says that Susana’s death caused Pedro to let Comala and the Media Luna fall into decline and disrepair. Through interweaving narratives, the reader then learns the events leading up to this. It begins with Susana moving away and marrying a man who later dies, leaving her distressed and disturbed. Pedro manages to track her down and offers her and her father a house if they will return to the village. Susana’s father accepts the house but refuses to let Pedro begin a relation with his daughter because he is already in an incestuous relationship with her, so Pedro and don Fulgor arrange for him to be killed.After the death of her father and, before that, her loving husband, Susana’s mental health declines dramatically, and she becomes lost in delusions, imagining that her husband is still alive.

Meanwhile, revolutionaries are rising up against rich landowners and they kill Pedro’s right hand man, don Fulgor, although Pedro then manages to employ a mercenary to go undercover to work to keep him safe from their attacks. Meanwhile, devastated about Susana’s illness and refusing to do anything to her in her vulnerable state, Pedro instead rapes and abuses several other women. When Susana dies, he sinks into misery and refuses to do anything, letting the village and the Media Luna deteriorate around him. Abundio, whose future ghost Juan met on his way into the village at the beginning of the novel, is still alive at this time, although his wife has recently died and he is drinking recklessly. He attempts to convince Pedro to give him money for more alcohol and, when Pedro refuses, he stabs him in an alcoholic stupor.As the novel ends, Pedro dies, happily dreaming of Susana, the object of his obsessions.

When it was first published in Mexico in 1955, Pedro Páramo sold poorly and received few positive reviews. However, its popularity has grown and it has now sold more than a million copies worldwide and been translated into more than thirty languages. Along with Rulfo’s first short story collection, it is widely regarded as a classic piece of twentieth-century Latin American literature and famously inspired Gabriel García Márquez to write his own Latin American classic, One Hundred Years of Solitude.