The Gospel According to Mark: An Exploration of the Darker Domains of the Primitive Mind
The Gospel according to Mark written by Jorge Borges is a brilliant short story that captures the attention of the reader through the craft of tight narration leading to a shocking climatic action. The suddenness of the climax stuns the reader for some time, but when he or she turns to pick up the clues strewn all over the plot, feels compelled to appreciate the primitive world created by the author through the use of few connected, seemingly ordinary events; a world in which the unexpected slaughter of Balthasar Espinosa, a very likable young man, seems perfectly explainable. At the end, the author is capable of delighting the reader by throwing light to the mysterious hidden realms of the primitive psyche.
Let us jump into the most important question that the story creates in the mind of the reader. What provokes the Gutre family to sacrifice Balthasar at the end of the story? The intentions of the Gutres are not very clear, as they are not much expressive. The mystery surrounding the archaic world in the ranch is amplified by the fact that there is very little communication happening between the Gutres and Balthasar. But when the Gutres speak, they end up giving vital clues that will help the reader decode their thought process behind the final gruesome act. The reader realizes that the seemingly innocent question regarding the salvation of the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus is a very loaded one. Not only the conversation but also the behavior exhibited by the family indicates that they operate from a very archaic worldview. Their sudden interest in the Gospel, their response to the treatment provided by Balthasar to their sheep, their silent following of Balthasar everywhere – all these point to the arousal of a mythical and quasi-religious mindset.
The world surrounding them, too, seems archaic and adds to the spontaneity of the horror and superstition contained in the plot. The mysterious possibilities of a farm separated from the outside world by rain and flood effectively pave way for something as gruesome as this. Some of those symbols of persistent storm and flood remind us of Noah’s ark in the Bible. The Gutre’s inability to communicate takes us back to the old Biblical myth of the tower of Babel. Journey to La Colarada appears like travelling back to the primitive world. The vulnerability of a charmingly careless and lazy Balthazar is complete with the total lack of modernism in the ranch.
Another element that adds to the primitive nature of the world in the ranch and thereby the suitability of an intense ritual like human sacrifice is the obvious parallelism between Jesus and Balthasar. He is 33, the age at which Jesus was killed. The medical student with a beard preaching to a group of intense listeners remind us immediately of Jesus the healer and teacher. His unlimited compassion is another obvious parallel. The event of the healing of the sheep nailed the final bit that helped the Gutres decide conclusively that Balthasar is another Christ. So they crucified him to take things to the most logical conclusion that a primitive mindset can arrive at and thereby to achieve their own salvation.
What’s the significance of the sexual encounter between Balthasar and the Gutre girl? The girl who voluntarily entered Balthasar’s room for sexual union, at no stage, exhibit any expression of romantic affection or sexual attraction. What she does in the bed too seems like a ritual. It resonates with the tradition of fattening the calf that has to be given in sacrifice. In the similar vein, it may be understood as part of the extraordinary care and respect meted out to Balthasar by the Gutres until crucifying him. So, though, it is extraneous to the biblical narrative, the episode rhymes well with the overall worldview exhibited by the Gutres.
The narrative elements mentioned above helps the author to create a world where strong undercurrents of notion of salvation through sacrifice seem totally plausible. The horror unleashed by the sharing of the Gospel message, merely intended to kill time, is a chilling reminder of the role being played by the eternal religious myths in the minds of people especially those who are not much exposed to a modern way of living. It reminds us of the unexplored territories of the human psyche that still continue to determine and shape our personal as well as social living. By placing an eternal religious myth over a real-life situation, the author invites us to see how limited is our knowledge regarding the hidden depths of our own minds.
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The Gospel according to Mark written by Jorge Borges is a brilliant short story that captures the attention of the reader through the craft of tight narration leading to a […]