Religion and Society in Juan Rulfo Novel Pedro Paramo
The novel Pedro Páramo revolves around different events that occurred in Comala. These events led to the destruction of the entire town. Juan Rulfo’s novel was influenced by Cristero War that affected many religious societies in rural Mexico and Fr. Renteria, a character in his novel, serves as a representation of the leader during this time period. Fr. Renteria is characterized as a greedy, unjust priest to suggest that corruption amongst religious leaders can contribute to a community’s decay. Fr. Renteria succumbing to Pedro’s demands leads to Pedro acquiring a large amount of power within Comala. When Pedro’s son, Miguel, dies, Fr. Renteria was asked to absolve Miguel’s soul. He denied this request stating, “He was an evil man” (25) and that “God will not smile on me if I intercede for him” (25).
During his response Fr. Renteria, “clasped his hands tightly, hoping to conceal their trembling. To no avail” (25). The visual imagery of Fr. Renteria’s hands shaking so uncontrollably suggests that he was nervous to challenge Pedro’s wishes, highlighting the amount of power and influence Pedro has over Fr. Renteria. Pedro’s power is what essentially leads to Comala’s demise. Fr. Renteria acknowledges that Comala began to crumble at Pedro’s hands when thinking to himself, “It all begun, when Pedro Paramo, made something of himself” (690). His narration gives the readers a chance to see the story through a broader scope and allows them to see how Comala decays from different threads. Fr. Renteria then says, “the worst of it is that I made it all possible” (69). His regretful tone highlights that he is aware of his role in the lack of morality in Comala, yet he did nothing in his power to resolve it. This makes him responsible for the demise of Comala.Fr. Renteria is not only greedy, but also unjust.
Through Fr. Renteria’s passive support of Pedro, the women in Comala are trapped in an oppressive atmosphere. When Fr. Renteria is listening to confessions, he hears, ““I have sinned, padre. Yesterday I slept with Pedro Paramo”, “I have bore Pedro’s child”(75), and “I gave my daughter to Pedro Paramo” (75). This emphasizes the extent of how much Pedro’s actions affected Comala and serves as an example of Pedro trapping others in a decaying society. The people in Comala lack motivation to believe those who follow God’s law will be rewarded because someone like Pedro was able to gain power, live a wealthy life, and be absolved of their countless sins without being truly remorseful. The people have no faith left in the religious system because it failed them. The failure in the system is well exemplified when Fr. Renteria questions Ana about Miguel raping her. Fr. Renteria almost has an accusatory tone when asking Ana, “what did you do to make him leave(27)?”, suggesting that he is attempting to shift the blame from Miguel and shame the victim to ease his own conscience for absolving her assailant. Because Fr. Renteria struggles to cope with the guilt of absolving Miguel for his sins, he seeks out a priest from Contla for absolution for his sins. The pair went on a walk to discuss the troubles of Comala. They saw ripening grapes and the Contlan priest told Fr. Renteria, “We live in a land which everything grows, but everything that grows is bitter (72)”.
The bitter grapes symbolize the city of Comala. Spoiled or bitter fruit in general is often used for those who live a godless, selfish and sinful life. Bitter grapes symbolize God’s disappointment when His people did not live productive, fruitful lives, which the citizens of Comala repeatedly failed to do. Fr. Renteria then replies to this by saying that he has “forgotten the taste of sweet fruit (72)”. The imagery of ripe grapes generally symbolizes the faithfulness of God’s followers. This image contrasts with the citizens of Comala’s indifference towards faithfully following Catholicism. Grapes, specifically wine, represent the blood of Christ, particularly the sacrament of Holy Communion. A person can only receive the Eucharist if they have not committed a mortal sin. Understandably, Fr. Renteria has forgotten what it is like to be in God’s grace and to live a morally good life. His longing tone highlights his desire to bring himself and the the citizens of Comala back into the the grace of God. Fr. Renteria goes on to say that he “brought seeds here,(72)” and “felt it would have been better to leave them where they were, since I only brought them here to die (72)”.
In the Gospel of John, Christ is referred to as the “true vine” because He fulfilled God’s Israel’s role of being God’s vine by being faithful to Him. The growth of the grape vine foreshadows how Fr. Renteria is treating the city of Comala. Fr. Renteria does not fulfil his role of being a “true vine” and leaves the citizens of Comala alone to behave however they want. Fr. Renteria makes his way back to Comala, however it is evident that there is no change in his behavior. Towards the end of the day he walked, “directly to the church, just as he was, bathed in dust and misery (73)”. The visual imagery establishes Fr. Renteria’s sense of defeat when it comes to the fate of Comala, he truly believes that Comala cannot be saved and his soul can no longer be saved. Dust symbolizes the souls of the damned in the Scriptures, it also signifies the grave, heightening the source of decay of Comala as a society.
When Dorotea asks Fr. Renteria for penance for bringing girls to sleep with Miguel he tells her, “How many times have you come to ask me to send you to Heaven when you die?..Well, you won’t go to Heaven now. May God forgive you (74-75)”. Fr. Renteria absolves Miguel of sins he committed out of lust, but does not give penance to Dorotea for sins she committed because she is poor and is struggling to find a way to take care of herself. The fact that he rejected Dorotea’s confession is unforgivable especially since she was truly remorseful for what she did.
After Dorotea’s confession, other women came to confess their sins. During this, Fr. Renteria’s “head slumped forward as if he could no longer hold it up. Then came the dizziness, the confusion, the slipping away as if in syrupy water (75)”. Dizziness is generally associated with being ungrounded while fainting and losing consciousness is associated with not wanting to cope with a certain situation. This highlights Fr, Renteria’s reluctance to deal with the Comalan’s disregard for moral law stems from his actions. The women repeatedly saying, “I have sinned” and “for now and forever more (75)” foreshadows the endless cycle of sin in Comala. The sins were never end which is why they cannot escape from their purgatory.
Juan Rulfo addresses the effect corrupt religious leaders have on a society by using Fr. Renteria as an example of the lifelessness that persuades this novel. The religious practices in Comala drains the life out of the citizens and because Fr. Renteria cannot forgive them and it transformed Comala into a purgatory. If it had not been for Fr. Renteria’s greed and his leniency towards those with money, Comala and its citizens would have been saved from their fate. Fr. Renteria’s characterization addresses the issues of communal injustice and how it affects a town.
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The novel Pedro Páramo revolves around different events that occurred in Comala. These events led to the destruction of the entire town. Juan Rulfo’s novel was influenced by Cristero War […]