Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo and Religion

Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo and Religion

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Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo and Religion

 

In the novel Pedro Paramo, Juan Rulfo uses religiousness as a characteristic

that contrasts with the characters lack of moral codes and lack of faith

normally attributed to religion. The people in the town of Comala are obsessed

with the afterlife and prayer, and they even attend church regularly, but these

are just habits that have lost their original meaning. Rulfo uses these symbolic

activities to make the charactersÕ dichotomous nature more apparent. Father

Renter'aÕs occupation, the town priest, demands integrity, purity, and the

power to believe his own teachings. Father Renter'a might, at one time, have

had those attributes but something changed him. The realization and

consequences of his own conflictive nature haunt Renter'a, and the town

subconsciously senses his anguish, thus shedding light on ComalaÕs religious

and psychological condition. A question arises about Renter'aÕs

disillusionment with religion: Did the townspeople make Renter'a cynical or did

his doubts lead them astray? I think it was more of the former, and the catalyst

in Renter'aÕs religious failing was just one man: Miguel Paramo. Miguel

Paramo killed Father Renter'aÕs brother and raped Renter'aÕs niece Ana.

These events were merely taken in stride with Renter'aÕs philosophy of Ònever

hate anyoneÓ but it was the death of Miguel that dashed Renter'aÕs religious

beliefs. Father Renter'a performed the funeral ceremony and did not offer a

final benediction partly for selfish reasons of revenge, using his pastoral robe

as a barrier. Disregarding Renter'aÕs condescending remarks of Miguel, Pedro

Paramo offered gold to the priest as restitution, or a bribe, and said, ÒWeigh

him and forgive him, as perhaps God has forgiven him.Ó At ParamoÕs defiance,

Renter'a realized that his religious power was no longer effective or revered in

Comala, because ParamoÕs gold was now the controlling force in the land.

Crushed and depressed, Renter'a no longer felt worthy of his office; ÒWhat

has their faith won them? Heaven? Or the purification of their souls? And why

purify their souls anyway, at the last momentÉÓ Renter'a had lost all faith in

his religion and himself. As if he had failed a test, he says, ÒAlright Lord, you

win.Ó Father Renter'a represents the constant struggle a person has to

maintain personal integrity against outside corruption and personal vices.

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His

struggle becomes frightfully overwhelming at confession time. Renter'a is

trapped in the booth and tormented with the mocking words ÒI have sinnedÉÓ

tolling louder on his conscience until Òthere was a taste of blood on his

tongue.Ó The blood is symbolic of another drop of his faith slipping away, or

somehow being forced out by the misfortune around him. Perhaps a result of

Father Renter's religious failing was the disconnection in peopleÕs minds

between religious practice and its significance. Or maybe the people of

Comala never truly believed in Renter'aÕs teaching because they had replaced

religion with superstition. The inhabitants of Comala have skewed the concept

of salvation from acts of kindness and living the word of the bible into just the

act of prayer and confession. The women of the town have daily confession to

rid their consciences of guilt, but they do not have any moral codes that would

effectively prohibit these guilty acts from the start. They have lost their moral

codes and religious fervor partly because of the environment: Life becomes a

constant struggle to live in the hellish desert, and when their prayers of rescue

go unanswered for years, they become jaded. Is Rulfo criticizing the

perpetuation of meaningless habits thought to bring rewards? Religiousness

without faith? And ultimately: The prospect of eternal happiness promised by a

daily prayer, no matter what sinful acts one has committed? I think he is. Or is

he just using this idea as a tool to describe the hostility of land and patr-n that

eventually destroys the will to believe, or to hope. He is saying this also. Rulfo

uses both aspects for different reasons: the first as a criticism of society and

the second merely for literary effect. The absence of moral guidelines or faith

in the Comalan people serves as a warning to everyone and also

demonstrates the faith shattering forces of nature. By using a priest, Rulfo

intensifies this ordinary struggle into bigger proportions that could not be

achieved without these extreme circumstances. It becomes an epic battle: the

ultimate effort for the human spirit to overcome hopeless opposition.

 
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