The Analysis of the Roles of Women as Symbols of Subjugation in Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo All throughout history, women have been universally known to be subjugated by men who are considered to be the leaders of society. Juan Rulfo develops a connection to this history of women as subjugated subjects of society in his novel Pedro Paramo as he presents the Mexican women as inferior and vulnerable beings under the authority and power of the men.
In his non-sequential novel, Pedro Paramo, Rulfo establishes female characters, such as Dolores, Dorotea, and Susana, respectively as symbols of subjugation representing pain, loss, and sacrifice who are emotionally, economically, psychologically and spiritually affected by the actions taken by male characters to illustrate that females in the Mexican society live under the shadow of male dominance without holding any power.
Rulfo introduces Dolores as a symbol of pain at the beginning of the novel. When Rulfo creates the flashback to the morose event of Dolores dying, Dolores is shown to be reminding Juan Preciado, her son, to visit Comala to “make [Pedro Paramo] pay for all those years he had put [them] out of his mind,” (Rulfo, 3). Rulfo’s decision to emphasize Dolores feelings against Pedro Paramo by making her grievances against Paramo her last words before dying capture Dolores’s emotional pain.
The dialogue conveys that although Dolores is close to the end of her human experiences, her experience with Paramo, her husband, left a lasting effect on her as she continues to recall his actions towards her and wishes for repayment of the time he abandoned her. Furthermore, with this event, Rulfo skillfully employs the significance of Dolores’s name, which means pain, by presenting that Dolores continues to dwell in the “pain” of her failed relationship with Paramo, the dominant male figure she had married.
This development of Dolores’s character in reference to the pain inflicted by Paramo presents that men in society, such as Paramo, have a strong, haunting effect on the state and mind of the women who interact with them. The lasting effect of the men on the position of women in further seen as Rulfo shifts Dolores from representing pain to symbolizing the loss of identify and power by highlighting Paramo’s role and circumstance in deciding to marry Dolores.
Paramo and his ancestors owed a great amount of debt to the Preciados, the family of Dolores. However, since Paramo lacks the money to pay the debt, he suddenly commands Fulgor “to go and ask for Lola’s [Dolores’s] hand” so that he would not have to pay the debt (Rulfo, 36). Rulfo’s choice of indirectly characterizing Paramo as a bold decision-maker with this dialogue reinforces the idea that men hold the power make all decisions in society.
Furthermore, Rulfo’s use of the marriage as a way of balancing relationships of money by exchanging a woman as the repayment of debt conveys that women in society, such as Dolores, are often viewed as a prize that can be switched for a monetary value. Dolores’s lack of opinion in the matter of her marriage further establishes that women are viewed as inanimate objects that face the loss of freedom and identity throughout their lives.
This loss of identity is evident as Dolores’s position of being in “charge of everything”, including money, before her marriage shifts to following the orders of Paramo after her marriage (Rulfo, 36). This clear difference between the command and power of a woman before and after being paced under the authority of men displays how women become the symbol of loss of independence and economic freedom after being subjugated under the shadow of the men in patriarchal social structures.
The representation of women as a symbol of loss is further seen through the minor character of Dorotea. Rulfo characterizes Dorotea as the one “who rolls up a bundle in her rebozo and sings to it, and calls it her baby,” (Rulfo, 63). This characterization of Dorotea as a childless mother who pretends to have a son illustrates how the lack of being able to conceive a son has caused her to lost her normal psychological state.
The repetition of the fact that Dorotea is unable to become a mother throughout the novel, and her motherly connection with Juan Preciado later in the novel, communicates the importance that the natural roles of women hold in the patriarchal society in which the males, such as Paramo, are viewed as the warrior and the female, such as Dorotea, are viewed as the care-takers. By focusing on Dorotea’s role as a care-taker in society, Rulfo shifts from the loss of Dorotea’s mental state to her economic dependence on Miguel Paramo and sacrifice of her spiritual freedom.
After hearing about Dorotea, Miguel Paramo is presented to be “wondering how the woman might be of use to him. Then without further hesitation he went back” and called her to hire her to find girls for him, (Rulfo, 63). Rulfo’s description of Miguel Paramo’s quick decision for a woman with the use of words, such as “without hesitation” tends to establish a connection with the way one would purchase an item at a store. The words suggest that Miguel did not have any emotional attachment or sympathy for Dorotea and hired her for his selfish purpose of desiring the lustful love and company of young girls.
In exchange for the job, Dorotea received the “same food” that Miguel Paramo ate, (Rulfo, 64). Although this may suggest that Dorotea held a position equal to that of men, Rulfo’s advancement in the plotline depicting Dorotea’s interaction with Father Rentaria conveys that she had sacrificed her spiritual freedom for the job. After Miguel’s death, Dorotea confessed to Father Rentaria that she had “rounded up Miguelito’s girls” and wished to be forgiven for the sin, (Rulfo, 74).
However, Father Rentaria responded in a mediocre manner by simply stating that Dorotea “won’t go to Heaven now,” (Rulfo, 74). Rulfo’s emphasis on Father Renteria’s unthoughtful reaction by employing the use of the simple dialogue suggests that the men of the society had no interests in listening to the truths of a women. As a result, Rulfo’s construction of Dorotea’s interaction with Miguel and Father Renteria communicates the manner in which women can be cunningly used against to manipulate other women and can be robbed from the possible happiness that may lie in their future.
Although Rulfo develops Pedro Paramo’s relationship with Susana as more intimate and valuable than with the other female characters, Rulfo continues to follow the pattern of representing women as the symbols of loss by conveying how Susana’s interaction with Paramo leads to the degradation of her identity as an individual. Rulfo focuses on Paramo’s control over Susana’s life by attributing the possessive dialogue of “I wanted to have it all. Not just part of it, but everything there was to have…” to Paramo in reference to his relation with Susana, (Rulfo, 82).
The repetition of phrase of wanting to “have” all or everything depicts Paramo’s internal desire to own Susana and be the sole subject of all her thoughts and feelings. By presenting this idea of possession in relation to the most intimate relationship developed in the novel, Rulfo illustrates how men in the Mexican society aim to control the lives and the hearts of the women through even their most caring actions. Rulfo’s message that men desire to own their love is further developed when Paramo refers to Susana as the “crowning achievement,” (Rulfo, 83).
Since the word “crowning” is often associated with crowns that serve as symbols of power, the phrase “crowning achievement” classifies Paramo as the king and Susana as a trophy or prize in society. Rulfo’s connection between Susana as an inanimate object reinforces women as the symbols of subjugation that represent the loss of personal identity in society. Despite Paramo’s continuous efforts to control all aspects of her life, Susana opposes the power of Paramo at the sacrifice of her life and mental state.
Rulfo characterizes Susana as a defiant character that challenges male presence and power by confining herself to a room and by not “complain[ing] about anything,” (Rulfo, 110). Although Susana continuous lack of response establishes her as a firm female character, it also marks that she has become physically and mentally unresponsive, and thus establishes her a living image of death. Rulfo skillfully utilizes this moribund state of Susana to convey that women are subjected to give sacrifices all throughout their lives as a consequence of their interaction with male leaders.
Overall, Rulfo demonstrates the subordinate and vulnerable position of women throughout history and the Mexican society by emphasizing the power and the effect of the authority of the men. Rulfo portrays how men’s can affect the lives of women by constructing his female characters of Dolores, Dorotea, and Susana as symbols of subjugation that are required to face pain, loss, and sacrifice. Ultimately, Rulfo establishes women as the symbols of subjugation under male control to convey that society revolves around patriarchal structures and stereotypes that help classify men as more valuable and power than women.