The Old Gringo, Carlos Fuentes
The Old Gringo is a fiction novel written by one of Latin America’s most renowned and eloquent authors, Carlos Fuentes. Filled with war, adventure, love and more, this novel takes you back to the Mexican revolution fought in 1912. This contemporary fiction is based on many themes found and experienced by the main characters in this novel. The relationship between Mexico and the United States, the drive to find one’s true self and the different ways two men need a woman are only a few themes contained in this story. The question: Is he Ambrose Bierce or just an old gringo, is one that I had to answer while reading this book. We all have different opinions, but it is a question that all ask themselves while reading The Old Gringo.
This novel is told in third-person narrator and at times, different characters in the story. Death is the most popular choice taken in the novel, especially for two of the main characters. It all begins when Harriet Winslow, an American schoolteacher, decides to come to Mexico in 1912 to teach English to the children of a wealthy landowner. What she finds is a general in Pancho Villa’s Revolutionary Army and an old American journalist, on a quest for adventure and death. The climax is reached at the death of the old gringo and the Mexican general. The story then ends with the return to the United States made by Harriet Winslow.
This story reminds me very much with the story of Pocahontas. The old gringo and the general, Tomas Arroyo, both desired Harriet Winslow’s love. In the story of Pocahontas, John Smith and Kokoum also had such feelings towards Pocahontas. In The Old Gringo, Harriet has a passionate love affair with Tomas Arroyo, the man with the different culture as her. In Pocahontas, she falls in love with John Smith, the man with the different culture as her as well. In both of these situations, we see the different desires for one woman made by two men.
The Old Gringo takes place in the early 1910’s in Mexico. The setting of this novel had major influences on the characters, the plot, and the themes of this story. Each character had different ideas on what Mexico meant to them. For Tomas Arroyo, Mexico was his home, a place he could never leave. The old gringo thought of Mexico as a destination for death, a place to die, while Harriet thought it was a place of escape from home and a new life across the frontier. The setting was essential for the plot because it is based on an actual event, the Mexican revolution, thus needed to fulfill the storyline. The setting also influenced one of the major themes of the story, the historical relationship between the United States and Mexico. As you can see, the setting of this novel was very important to everything included in this story.
The main characters in this story are Harriet Winslow, the old gringo, and Tomas Arroyo. Of the Three, Harriet learns the most as she starts her new life as governess across the frontier. She is a dynamic character that changes in the story because of the things that happen around her. Other characters include Manslavo, La Garduna, Frutos Garcia, La Luna and more. Carlos Fuentes did a very good job of describing these characters and paints a picture, like all great authors, of the characters portrayed in their novels. Most of the story revolves, however, not around the old gringo but the young gringa, Harriet Winslow. Harriet Winslow is a Yankee spinster, who decides one day in 1912 to break loose from her humdrum life by taking a job as governess in Mexico. Once she arrives, she is immediately caught in the middle of the Mexican revolution. Here, she meets the general, Tomas Arroyo, and the American author, the old gringo. Harriet is described as a, “quick, elegant, and a beautiful woman of thirty.” In a discussion with Miss Harriet and the old gringo, we learn that her father disappeared in...
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