The South by Jorge Luis Borges

In The South by Jorge Luis Borges we have the theme of identity, pride, ego, romanticism, escape and conflict. Taken from his Collected Fictions collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that Borges may be exploring the theme of identity. Dahlmann can trace his ancestor back over fifty years to his paternal grandfather coming from Germany to Argentina and maternal Grandfather fighting against Catriel’s men. Though this is not a long lineage to associate oneself with, Dahlmann nevertheless does so and allows for his pride in his linage to define him and his identity. Dahlmann also is proud to come from the south and believes himself to be better than those from other parts of Argentina. Something which may be important as it plays on the theme of identity again. It also plays on ego with Dahlmann having an inflated opinion of himself.

The theme of escape is self-evident in the story with Dahlmann escaping to his country home whenever he gets the opportunity. However in the case of the present escape is limited for Dahlmann. He spends part of his time in a sanatorium for head injuries he has sustained. In fact so low is Dahlmann in the clinic that he wishes he was dead. Despite the fact that friends have told him he is looking well. This may be significant as it would appear that Dahlmann’s friends are somewhat in denial about the seriousness of Dahlmann’s injury. Dahlmann though trying to escape to the country and symbolically by reading Weil’s Arabian Nights is quite badly injured and his stay in the sanatorium only serves to act as foreshadowing to worse things to come for Dahlmann.

There is some other symbolism in the story which might be important. The slow walk that Dahlmann takes from the train platform to the store acts as another form of escape. He is in no rush and just wishes to enjoy the moment he is in. He is after all heading to the place he loves the best, his country home. Dahlmann’s romanticism of his lineage also acts to be a form of escape from reality. At no stage in the story does the reader suspect that Dahlmann is as brave as either of his grandfathers. Something that is really noticeable when Dahlmann is challenged to the knife fight by the Indian. Dahlmann is reluctant to fight him because he knows very little about the usage of a knife. He has played with one on occasion, but still knows very little. If anything there is both an internal and external conflict in the story. The internal conflict is how Dahlmann deals with being in the sanatorium and the external conflict occurs when the Indian challenges Dahlmann to a fight.

The end of the story is interesting as the reader fully realizes that when Dahlmann walks out of the store with the Indian. He is walking to his death. Though some readers might suggest that Dahlmann is being brave, as his grandfathers were. This is not the case. Dahlmann is allowing for his pride and ego to take over and obscure his mind from thinking clearly. Dahlmann knows that the odds are stacked against him when it comes to the fight. Yet he persists and accepts the knife that has been thrown to him by the old man. It is certain that Dahlmann will die just as his grandfather had died. Dahlmann’s maternal grandfather though brave seems to have also lived his life full of pride. Pride in conquering Argentina for colonialists.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The South by Jorge Luis Borges." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 14 Aug. 2022. Web.

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