The Dead Man by Horacio Quiroga
In The Dead Man by Horacio Quiroga we have the theme of acceptance, mortality, fear, loneliness, helplessness and connection. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Quiroga may be exploring the theme of acceptance. The man lying by the wire fence has difficulty accepting that he is dying. His mind is telling him that he is dying but the man still feels as though he will survive the accident with the machete. This may be significant as Quiroga may be highlighting the fear that one might have when it comes to the issue of mortality. How a person, even though they know death is inevitable, will still fight it till the end. In the hope of seeing at least one more day or in the man’s case seeing his family come out to the plantation. However there is to be no more days for the man. His time has come and he is not ready for it. It is also interesting that Quiroga normalizes everything by way of the setting. This could be symbolically important as by normalizing the setting Quiroga perhaps is also normalizing death. It is after all inevitable and an experience that each man and woman will go through.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that the man cannot accept the loneliness he feels. No individual would wish to die alone and the man is no different. It is as though he is in a state of paralysis after wounding himself with the machete. He knows he is dying but there is no acceptance or call for help. The world around him continues to exist as it always has. Which may be important. As Quiroga could be suggesting that death is a lonely adventure and can only really be experienced by the individual who is dying. If anything death takes one person at a time. One dream is diminished when a person dies. Though some critics might suggest there are incidents of great tragedies in whereby many people have died at the same time. Each individual death has its own dream. For the man his dream is to work his plantation and to see his family again. These are the two things that the man is connected to most.
There is also a sense that the man is helpless. That he knows there is nothing he can do and that he must simply wait to die. Though internally as mentioned he still fights death. Believing at moments that everything will be alright. That his family will come to him and that he will have lunch with them. Something that is clearly not going to happen. It might also be significant that the man does not reflect on his life to any great degree. Though he is dying. Everything is in the now for the man. He is living each second as though it is his last while still holding onto the notion that he is not fatally injured. It doesn’t really register with the man that he is as wounded as he is. Everything seems too simple for him. A simple fall and he is dying. A fence he has climbed many times before though on this occasion the results are fatal.
The end of the story is interesting as life carries on as normal. Which may be the point that Quiroga is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that man himself is only a small cog in the wheel of life. The wheel will continue to turn even if a man might die. True the man’s family will grieve his loss but in time their pain will lessen and life will continue to move forward for them. Till the next death that the family experiences and the grieving process will continue again. If anything life is cyclical in nature. We are born, we die and those who love us carry on the best that they can. As to what happens the plantation is difficult to say and many readers might like to believe that the man’s work will be eventually continued by his son. However life is not always that simple. In all likelihood the plantation will die. Just as the man has die. Everything in life must come to an end at some time. A fact that can be difficult to accept.