Academic journal article MACLAS Latin American Essays

The Fragmented Pysche of Mexico: The Narrative Structure of la Muerte De Artemio Cruz through the Lens of Francisco Gonzales Pineda

Academic journal article MACLAS Latin American Essays

The Fragmented Pysche of Mexico: The Narrative Structure of la Muerte De Artemio Cruz through the Lens of Francisco Gonzales Pineda

Article excerpt

Upon reading Carlos Fuentes's novel La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962) for the first time, many readers find themselves confused, frustrated, and even lost, due to its complex narrative structure. With each chapter divided into three parts (Yo, Tu, El) the reader is left searching for an explanation of such a structure and the significance of each narrative voice. Much of the novel's early criticism emphasizes the challenges that this structure presents. Lanin Gyurko acknowledges this difficulty, noting that "... the structure is visible on the surface, like a literary exoskeleton, at times like a straitjacket over the narrative" (30). Andrea Lower suggests that the structure reflects Fuentes's complex world vision (19), while June Carter notes, "The total movement of La muerte de Artemio Cruz for character and reader has been from disintegration to wholeness" (43). During the forty-one years since the novel's publication, critics have taken various analytical approaches in search of a solution that explains the various fragments of the narrative structure. However, the tripartite division of the novel continues to be the subject of interest and investigation. The following study offers an interpretation by means of a previously unrecognized source. Francisco Gonzalez Pineda published El mexicano: su dinamica psicosocial in 1959, just three years before Fuentes wrote La muerte de Artemio Cruz. In what follows, I hope to shed light on the complex, fragmented character of Artemio Cruz by means of an analysis from the perspective of Gonzalez Pineda.

La muerte de Artemio Cruz lends itself easily to psychoanalytic interpretation, since the narrative division points to the most urgent and mysterious questions of the human mind, its conscious and unconscious processes. Which psychological functions could the three narrative voices of Artemio represent? What is the relation between these three voices and what could have caused this psychic fragmentation? And, above all, what kind of message does Fuentes convey by organizing the novel in this way?

Several critics have employed Freud's hypothesis on the tripartite division of the psyche into Ego, Superego, and Id for an understanding of the novel's structure. Hernan Vidal, examining the narrative mode of the novel, concentrates on the "tu" voice as it relates to the Freudian concept of the Superego, while Santiago Tejerina-Canal also uses some Freudian terminology to interpret the voices of Artemio: "the consciousness of the Artemio-I of the present, the subconscious of the Artemio-YOU of the recent past and future, and the memory of the Artemio-HE of the distant past" (200). In these analyses it seems that the critics are approaching a solution to this problem of structure within the novel, touching upon questions of conscious and unconscious levels. Albeit separate, they are useful for a better understanding of the character of Artemio. However, Andrea Lower calls attention to a crucial point for reaching a more complete understanding of the complex structure of the novel: "Si bien los tres niveles estan bien marcados y forman ciclos reconocibles, pueden parecer inconexos entre si, o incluso autonomos. Consecuentemente, la critica los ha tratado asi, analizando la naturaleza ya de uno, ya de otro nivel. Creemos, sin embargo, que el sentido total de la obra se explica mejor buscando como se enlazan los tres niveles, insistiendo en su interdependencia" (19).

The Freudian school of psychoanalysis identifies three levels of the psyche: the Ego, Superego, and Id. Although other schools of psychoanalysis serve to explain specific elements of Fuentes's novel, there seems to be a definite connection between the three voices of Artemio and the three Freudian levels of consciousness. Freudian theory offers the possibility of interpreting the three voices in the novel as well as explaining their interdependence. …

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