World Literature: Touch in Pedro Páramo and Dom Casmurro

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In novels as sensual as Pedro Páramo and Dom Casmurro, it is not surprising that the authors employ a variety of literary techniques and imagery. Amongst them, not as prominent as the sense of hearing but still salient, is the sense of touch. I will examine how narrators in Dom Casmurro and Pedro Páramo use the sense of touch to reveal their inner motivations and feelings about a situation or character.

Touch can symbolize relationships. When two characters touch shoulders in Pedro Páramo, for example, this seems to show siblinghood. Juan and Abundio walk “side by side, so close [their] shoulders [are] nearly touching” (5). Juan and Abundio turn out to be half brothers. They share a father and are nearly brothers, just as their shoulders nearly touch, but their different mothers create both a genetic and physical gap between them.

Later in the story, Donis’s sister “[goes] to stand beside him, leaning against his shoulder” (53). Their shoulders do not merely touch, which would confirm that they are siblings; she leans against Donis, suggesting their relationship extends beyond a familial one. Although this has already been strongly implied, Donis’s sister leans against Donis before asking Juan whether he truly understands the relationship between her and Donis. Rulfo has already revealed that they are incestuous, but the action coupled with her question shows that neither the reader nor Juan realizes fully the nature of this relationship.

Like Rulfo, Machado de Assis uses one way of touching, in his case, men brushing against Capitu’s arms, in different situations. This results in different repercussions. Capitu’s shapely arms draw attention whenever she and Bento attend balls. However, during the first night they are merely admired and when other men touch her it seems incidental, innocuous: “however much they might touch other frock coats” (183). Bento mentions this touch fleetingly. His focus is on Capitu’s arms, not male attention. On the second...
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