The Gospel According to Mark by Jorge Luis Borges
In The Gospel According to Mark by Jorge Luis Borges we have the theme of sacrifice, judgement, perception, innocence and tradition. Taken from his Completed Fictions collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Borges may be exploring the theme of sacrifice. Espinosa has no idea that he is to be crucified or sacrificed to God. It is as though he is innocent of the Gutre’s intention. Though Espinosa does not consider that the Gutre’s are an intelligent people he still does not believe that they will follow the instructions of their teachings and kill him. This may be important as Espinosa has in many ways misjudged the Gutre’s. He sees them as simple folk when compared to his own education. This may also be significnat as Borges could be suggesting that an individual does not have to be clear in the scriptures or be clever enough to understand the bible. If anything Espinosa is a misfit when it comes to the Gutre’s. He is teaching from books while the Gutre’s teachings comes from the land. They have very few books to read and those that they do have they have very little understanding of.
It is also interesting that Espinosa sleeps with one the Gutre’s girls as he has everything opportunity to ensure that something will not happen between the two but Espinosa succumbs to the flesh. This might be significant as Espinosa’s actions have directly led to his eventual downfall. For all his righteous teachings Espinosa cannot live a righteous life. If anything the burden of the flesh is something that Espinosa will pay for his life with. It is as though there was an unwritten boundary that has been crossed and now Espinosa’s must pay the price. Even though Espinosa’s is in charge of the ranch he knows that he does not have to power to either run away or persuade the Gutre’s that he has made an innocent mistake. He is also taking his interpretation of the gospel and relaying it to the Gutre’s though he may not necessarily be qualified to do so. Though it is true that Espinosa wants to connect with the Gutres he might have been better choosing a book that neither he nor the Gutre’s fully understood not only because of the difference in language between the two groups while the Gospel should be taught with care. It is open to misinterpretation and Espinosa may not have been the wisest of teachers.
Espinosa also seems to make the mistake that the Gutres have a complete understanding of what he is telling him. However Espinosa’s actions speak louder than words when he as a romantic relationship with one of the Gutre’s daughters. It is not as though Espinosa’s can change and turn back the clock or quote a biblical passage to make everything alright again. He knows that he is in the wrong but he does attempt to persevere through this little mishap. However the Gutre’s have their own habits that must be adhered to. If anything Espinosa has stepped over a mark. He may not have consciously known that what he was doing was wrong but nonetheless he has stepped over a mark and there is a price to be paid. A price that the reader realises is being paid because Espinosa does not know the tradition of the Gutres. From starting out as friendly people the Gutres eventually scorn Espinosa.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader realises that should events have occurred in the city. Espinosa would have been in no trouble. This may be important and Borges may be separating the traditional values of the city with the values of the Gutres. Christianity has not made it through to the heartlands and through naivety and innocence Espinosa has a paid a heavy price for his actions. His intentions were good but engaging sexually with one of the Gutre’s daughter’s Espinosa has meant that Espinosa has broken a taboo. A taboo that appears to be punishable by death. Which leaves the reader suspecting that Espinosa is an innocent man when it comes to the cultures of others. He may know his way around the city but there are different parts of the country in whereby what he knows does not take precedence over what others know. If anything Espinosa knows very little when it comes to the greater scheme of things. For him the night he spent with one of the Gutre’s daughter’s was a brief fling. However to the Gutre’s men it was an invasion of one of their woman and as such there has to be repercussions. The reader is left realizing that the repercussions that Espinosa has to incur are drastic. He is paying with his life for a tradition he did not fully understand.