A Critical Review of No oyes ladrar los perros
The reader of Juan Rulfo finds a writer who understands the impact of words and places the voice of the consciousness of Mexico's common citizens over literary prowess. His goal is to recognize the poor and downtrodden and he does so in a rudimentary way in his collection of stories El llano en llamas from which the focused story No oyes ladrar los perros is extracted. A careful reading of Rulfo's No oyes ladrar los perros suggests that although the portraits of his characters are static, their structure is very important in conveying the ordinary man of Mexico and the fatalism that he faces. The social-historical context of this essay finds Rulfo as a contemporary Latin-American writer. Superficially, Rulfo's works seem part of the regionalist tradition which reached full force with the novels of the Mexican Revolution (Rulfo,117). In this era many themes with distinct characteristic and social problems, as well as universitality, were reemphasized. Rulfo falls into this category, departing from crude realism to a new magical and psychological dimension dealing with the tragedy of the family life, the separation of the individual verses society, the new constitution, and the separation of government and the church. The plot of No oyes ladrar los perros is one of a mortal battle between father and son. The son has been injured and the father is trying to get him to a doctor, the whole while telling him he is helping only because he had promised the boy's dead mother to take care of him and bringing up all of the bad things the boy has done. The father does not know the son well, as indicated by the change in address from informal to formal. Nevertheless he tries as hard as he can to get the boy to the doctor, only to have him die in the end. The architecture of this text centers solely around a father and son and is chronologically based with flashbacks that deepen the level of the story. These two main characters, because they are shown with a lack of omniscient emotion, best portray the social context of country life. Rulfo's utilization of actually voiced interior monologue and dialogue further fill his need to identify with rural Mexico (Martin, 939). For example, at the beginning of the story No oyes ladrar los perros, describing the battle between a father and a son, he does not begin by writing:'They walked for hours without seeing anything.' Instead he writes:..".díme si no oyes alguna señal de algo o si ves alguna luz en alguna parte'[ 'Tell me if you hear some sign of something or if you see some light in some part' ](Rulfo, 158). This is meant to show how Rulfo would see his long walk: as a wilderness. It is his voice without a narrator's being imposed over it. The dialogue of the two characters leads to the simplicity of the common man found in Mexico. The vocabulary is sparse and is used to express basic needs. Most dialogue consists only in a few words or sentences such as"¿ Te duele mucho?/Algo ["Do you hurt much/Some"](Rulfo, 159), "Mira bien/No se ve nada"[ "Very well/I don't see anything"] (Rulfo, 158), and"Me estoy cansando/Bájame"[ "I am tired/Let me down" ](Rulfo, 159). These simple phrases along with the isolation of the characters gives the reader a feel of rural Mexico. Fatalism, as well as actually voiced monologue and dialogue, forces the reader to look at reality. Rulfo is basically asking one to look at the facts. By using characters that show little emotion he brings out the ruin and desolation, the oppression, and the tragedy of family life. The relationship between father and son in No oyes ladrar los perros is the ultimate tragedy. Throughout the story the father is trying to make the son realize the anguish he has put everyone through by his deeds and acknowledge that he as a father has also made mistakes. This statement is best seen in the quote:" ¿Lloras, Ignacio? Lo hace llorar a usted el recuerdo de su madre, ¿verdad? Pero nunca hizo usted nada por ella. ...Parece que, en lugar de cariño, le hubiéramos retacado el cuerpo de maldad.' [" Are you crying, Ignacio? You are crying from the memory of your mother, but you never did anything for her. It seems that we filled your body with evil instead of love" ](Rulfo, 162). The son, previously showing no emotion, is crying and the father is admitting that he may have a role in his son's problems. This signifies that the characters were on the verge of reconciling only for the son to die in the end where the father could " No me ayudaste ni siquiera con esta esperanza" ["not give [him] any help not even with this hope (that they had arrived at the doctor)"] (Rulfo, 162). "Macho" Mexican abuse is also used with little emotion to assert superiority. The son can be seen partly as a conquistador because he is arrogant and death-dealing, "...viviendo del robo y matando gente." ["...living in theft and killing people"] (Rulfo, 161). He is defeated in the beginning because his father says" Ese no puede ser mi hijo"[ "this cannot be my son"] (Rulfo, 161), yet he is somewhat accepted through his father's actions in getting him help, refusing to leave him, and when his father admits his part, saying " Parece que, en lugar de cariño, le hubiéramos retacado el cuerpo de maldad" ["It seemed that we filled your body with evil instead of affection"] (Rulfo, 162). Mexicans have an insulting phrase they use when they wish to assert their superiority over someone else:' I am your father" (Martin, 940). This phrase can be seen as an example in No oyes ladrar los perros with Ignacio's macho Mexican abuse of his mother where he"Comenzando porque a usted no le debo más que puras difucultades, puras mortificaciones, puras verguenzas" [ "gave her more difficulties, morticication, and shame"] (Rulfo, 160), "Pero nunca hizo usted nada por ella" [ "never [doing] anything for her"] (Rulfo, 162) and through the affirmation of his father-a denial of anthropological and biological reality. Not only does the lack of omniscient emotion play a role in Rulfo's characters, but their intrahistory and religion play a large part in the fable. In No oyes ladrar los perros he expresses his belief in the inadequacy of Christianity in alleviating man's capacity to suffer and cause pain. The father's character is forever saying " ¿Te sientes mal? ["Do you feel bad"](Rulfo, 160) and " Pobre de ti, Ignacio" ["Poor Ignacio"] (Rulfo, 158), knowing that he can't relieve his son's pain. He also expresses the idea that although his son has been baptized, he is sure that " Y estoy seguro de que, en cuanto se sienta usted bien, volverá a sus malos pasos" [ "[he] will return to his bad ways"] (Rulfo, 161). Thus the church is seen as powerless to the characters. Another way Rulfo expresses religion in his characters is that the rural Mexicans believe that the dead suck in the living and defeat them (Martin, 940). In some senses the father is seen to be defeated twice: once by the mother who made him promise to take care of his son (Rulfo, 160), and then by the son who is" ...al quedar libre"[ "kept free"] (Rulfo, 162). Despite their advantages, Rulfo's character portraits aren't perfect. The characters can be too sketchy to deliver the full human impact (Harss, 461). We are told only in spoken flashbacks some hints to the characters, and the dead mother in No oyes ladrar los perros, though important, does not seem to be fully developed. One doesn't know how she died, or when, which could explain the father-son relationship more. The reader doesn't know who will take care of the boy, stating" ...acaben contigo quienes sean"[ "they will finish with you, whoever they may be"] (Rulfo, 160). One also doesn't know what the son has done, only that ¿Que pasó con sus amigos?/Los mataron a todos" [ " [his friends] were all killed" ](Rulfo, 162) and ...te fuera a subir aquella rabia a la cabeza"[ "fury has taken hold of him"] (Rulfo, 161). Another difficulty with Rulfo's characters is that they lack inner resource and are entirely defined by their situation, presenting the reader with a danger of falling into pathos (Harss, 461). All of No oyes ladrar los perros lies with the situation of the father getting his son to the doctor. They speak of no alternatives except getting to Tonaya nor do they try to work out their relationship. The father will not let his son down or try a different way of transporting him even though he is stumbling and "Encongía el cuerpo y luego se enderezaba para volver a tropezar de nuevo"[ "his body contracts and straightens to return to stumble again"] (Rulfo, 160). Although the characters are static and simple, they do convey the ordinary man and fatalism that he faces. A careful look at this work may find the marks of writers such as Monterroso through the fabalistic didactics of the characters. Likewise there are parts of this story that may read in a style like Poniatowska through the microreality testimonial portrayal of the poorer part of society-- yet one must observe the fact that at the same time he distances himself from this testimonial mold to absorb influences such as Faulkner whose influence allows Rulfo to capture the mystic and primitive feel of the ordinary life on the land. Compared with other writers, it is true that Rulfo's volume of work is not great, but his works live with a short story in every sentence and in a unique world of their own. Readers of Rulfo should look beyond the simplicity of his characters and into the deeper cumulative effect that they cause. The simplicity of characters in No oyes ladrar los perros reflect the inner man and allow his voice to be heard as well as allowing frankness and an understated way of expressing country life. Elements of characterization such as actually voiced interior monologue and dialogue, fatalism, machismo, religion and intrahistory work toward the common goal of identifying with rural Mexico. The worth of this work is that it gives even the most downtrodden a voice and evokes a tragic sense of life that fills one with the driving force to change-a force that allows the Mexican culture of the few to become a culture for the rights of many.
Literature Cited Harss, Luis. "Juan Rulfo, or the Souls of the Departed." Into the Mainstream: Conversations with Latin-American Writers. 1966. p. 461-462. Martin, Seymour. A Guide to Modern World Literature. Detroit: MacMillan Press, 1985. Rulfo, Juan. "No oyes ladrar los perros." Cinco maestros: Cuentos modernos de Hispanoamerica. Ed. Alexander Coleman. New York: Hartcourt Publishers, 1969. 117-162.