Student Responses

The following are written responses to The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by non-literature majors at San Diego State University.

For decades now, among academics and professionals, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands has rarely been discussed beyond the pallid light of the problematic circumstances surrounding its translation.

Enough with the impossibilities.

To new perspectives.

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands

Joao Guimaraes Rosa’s The Devil to Pay in the Backlands is a riveting novel that explores a wide variety of themes. Rosa delves into the political, spiritual, social, emotional, and psychological dynamics of human nature by centering the novel on its jagunço protagonist, Riobaldo. Much of the novel is spent as a listener, as Riobaldo speaks philosophically about his inner thoughts and emotions to the audience while the novel’s plot builds toward a war between the Riobaldo-led jagunços versus another group of jagunços led by the two Judases, Ricardao and Hermógones. One of the more important subplots of the novel is Riobaldo’s love for his fellow jagunço, Diadorim. This relationship between Riobaldo and Diadorim is one of the aspects in which I found intriguing, and was something I continued to pay attention to as the novel progressed.

Riobaldo and his relationship with Diadorim led to a somewhat paradox in The Devil to Pay in the Backlands. The paradox was this duality between Riobaldo and Diadorim’s theme of “love” and this overall setting of “war” in the sertão of present-day Brazil. It is clear and evident throughout the novel that Riobaldo has an eternal love for Diardorim. I found it interesting that this deep presence of love was embedded in a character that can equally be extremely violent and dangerous, being that Riobaldo is an expert shooter. Diadorim was also one of the more dangerous of the jagunços due to the fact that he was probably the most courageous. But even with these war-related attributes Riobaldo and Diadorim have, they both have a deep and almost intimate love for each other, which is commonly expressed in Riobaldo’s thoughts in the novel. This love between the two in the setting of the novel is what creates this duality of love and war in the novel. Because the novel takes place in the sertão, the backlands of Brazil where violence tends to occur among the jagunços in the novel, I found it odd (but interesting) to place these inner thoughts of such intimate love for another person in a place filled with such violence and war.

Ryan Picardal

Birds in The Devil to Pay in the Backlands

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Joao Guimaraes Rosa introduces the reader to many characters, but one reigns in importance: Diadorim.  The ultimate love of Riobaldo’s life, Diadorim is a fierce fighter when backed into a corner, but for the most part he is kind, gentle, and almost feminine.  These qualities are depicted by the author in one method of representation, and that is the symbolism of birds.  In nearly all novel scenes involving Diadorim, there is a bird analogy nestled into one of the paragraphs.

Nothing in the novel references birds like the author’s descriptions of Diadorim.  He first enters the novel as a young boy, who takes the narrator birdwatching.  Upon their next meeting, Riobaldo says about him, “Until that time, I had never heard of anyone stopping to admire birds just for the pleasure of it, watching their comings and gongs, their flight and alighting” (121).  Rosa continues throughout the novel to use birds to set Diadorim apart from the other jaguncos.  His interactions with the animal are tender, appreciative, while other jaguncos are interested only in the sport of hunting.  Staying at the ranch of Negro Pedro Segundo de Rezende, Riobaldo says, “There were quantities of happy birds resting on the sand shoals and islands.  We even fished in the river.  Never again, til the very end, did I see Reinaldo so serene, so happy” (125).  Even upon his first meeting with Otacilia, the narrator mentions, “I spoke about the birds that were fling about before the day got hot.  It was Diadorim who had taught me to see the birds” (159).  Drawing on more qualities of Diadorim that are bird-like, the narrator describes, “Gentleness makes one forget many things… At times when he thought he was alone, Diadorim used to sing to himself and he had a good voice.”  Later, when staying on a ranch, Diadorim displays maternal instincts towards the rancher’s kids, which the other portrays using yet another small story about the birds, “Diadorim liked [the boys] very much and would take them by the hand- even carrying the smallest ones- and go to watch the birds on the islands in the river.  ‘Look, look at them: the little red-legs have finished moulting” (245).   Riobaldo’s point of view on the birds comes into play when he is debating running away from the jagunco life, “Before, I had perceived the beauty of those birds, on the Velhas River, once and for always.  The little red-legs.  Could I give all this up?” (259).  Of course, he is not so concerned with giving up the birds as he is with Diadorim, though through all the parallels the author has drawn between the two, the words could practically be interchangeable.

The image of two men, bird-watching in the midst of a culture immersed in war, is strikingly beautiful.  It is this quality of peace, and a sort of feminine appreciation of animals and nature, that Rosa captures in his descriptions of Diadorim.

Maddie McFarland

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands

In the novel “The Devil to Pay in the Backlands” weapons hold a special significance. But not just any weapons, knives. There are several references to knives, by many of the main characters in the story. Specifically the narrator Riobaldo. There are three specific incidents in the novel where knives play a significant role in representing much more. In the novel it is considered to be a great sign of bravery to kill a jaguar with a knife. To go inside of its cave and stab it with a knife is sign of true bravery. For example, when Riobaldo runs into a leper in the forest who is licking guavas to infect others, instead of killing the leper with his gun, Riobaldo has inner dialogue with Diadorim. In this dialogue Diadorim tells him that instead of killing the leper with the gun, he needs to kill him with his knife. Although Riobaldo never successfully kills the leper, it is interesting that his inner-voice suggests that the knife is what he needs to use to kill him. Especially considering the leper is able to infect him, it would be much more rational to use a weapon that would be much less likely in getting him injured. The knife must hold some universal belief among jaguncos that it is only truly and act of bravery when a life of some sort is taken with a knife. Bravery plays a major role considering Riobaldo is trying to establish himself as leader among his group of jaguncos. If they only believe someone is brave by killing with a knife, it would be vital that Riobaldo kill with a knife as he is trying to establish his authority and power. Which means he needs to be looked up to as a brave man. Another example of knives coming into play with significance is when Ze Bebelos empties the ammunition from his gun, while his knife is in the other hand. Suggesting that he would die before he killed his opponent with a gun as opposed to a knife. While Riobaldo seems to be trying to convince both himself and his band of jaguncos that he is truly brave, Diaodorim already seems to be brave. In the early stages of the novel when Riobaldo first meets Diadorim, at the time Reinaldo, Diadorim stabs a man coming at them from the woods toward the river. He stabs the man in the leg and Riobaldo first sees how brave Diadorim truly is. Knives have come to represent both bravery and authority, and how the character goes about dealing with killing the enemy with a knife rather than a gun or something requiring much less effort reveals a lot about how brave the character is.

Ashleigh Padilla

The Devil To Pay In The Backlands

The Devil To Pay In The Backlands, by Joao Guimaraes Rosa is known as one of the most prolific pieces of literature to emerge from South America, and it easy to see why this story has captivated millions. The plot revolves around a Brazilian man named Riobaldo who tells the story of his life to someone whom he is talking with. Although it is never explicitly stated who he is talking to, one can assume from the context of the novel that he is a writer, reporter, or journalist of some sort. He describes his life as a jugunco in the backland, or the sertao, of Brazil. Riobaldo goes from being a standard member of a band of juguncos, to a power hungry, sexually confused, leader of the a large group of jaguncos. It is clear from the style of the writing and the story that there are many underlying messages inscribed in the text by Rosa. Perhaps the overarching theme is the concept of uncertainty while consisting of three interconnected sub-themes: the devil, power, and sexuality.

The devil, as a concept rather than a tangible being, is present throughout this book. It is clear that the devil is of particular importance to the jagunco culture in the sense that it is the counter to their devout Christian practices. The jaguncos talk about the devil as if he is essentially everywhere, especially when referring to the sertao. The devil and the sertao appear to be almost parallel from the perspective of the jaguncos and Riobaldo specifically. As Riobaldo states many times, the sertao is a vast entity that has no clear beginning or end. Although the sertao is already the backlands, Riobaldo will often refer to various places as being in the deep parts of the sertao, almost eluding to a belief that it is ever expanding. Similarly, the devil seems to be everywhere at once. When Riobaldo attempts to sell his soul to the devil, he walks into the forest assuming that the devil will be there. Although this could possibly be interpreted as the devil simply following him individually, the context provides the sense to the reader that the devil is in fact a vast expanse of negative energy, similar to the way that the sertao never appears to end. However, this potentially implies some division of where the devil is and where the devil isn’t. If the devil in fact is everywhere, then there would be no reason for him to go into the forest or “deeper” into the sertao. Because this does not follow the prior analysis of the parallelism between the devil and the sertao, perhaps a more logical analysis is that he is attempting to escape Diadorim’s presence. Diadorim constantly represents all that is good in the story, whether it be justice or simply attempting to keep Riobaldo humble once he reaches his position of great power. Also, there are multiple passages in the text that describe Riobaldo feeling the gaze of Diadorim, as if he is constantly watching him. One could then view Diadorim as the counter to the devil, or at least what Riobaldo perceives as the devil, therefore implying that he believed that the depths of the forest allowed him to escape Diadorim’s watch. The concept of the devil fits in with the overall concept of uncertainty by being inherently uncertain in itself. The devil is not a tangible figure but is an existence that juggles between certainty and uncertainty, and although sounding redundant, this theoretically is the definition of uncertainty. Riobaldo at times thinks that he has successfully sold his soul to the devil, yet he often states that the devil doesn’t exist. This action of selling his soul to the devil also causes a power complex to develop within Riobaldo.

As the plot progresses, Riobaldo struggles as he rises to power. Additionally, the concept of the devil only extenuates this desire for power. Power can have many contexts, but the devil is seen in many cultures as the ultimate extrapolation of evil power. He transitions from a basic unit of a jugunco machine to becoming the main operator of this giant machine. Although a machine is perhaps not a proper analogy based on the fact that machines operate in a very certain manner, repeating the same motions over and over, it does apply to this scenario in the sense that Riobaldo is placed in a position of great power. He essentially has complete control over the other men and he becomes power hunger very quickly. Although it is clear that he is apparently developing this longing for power because of his supposed link to the devil, this feeling maintains even when he is in the state of belief that he did not successfully sell his soul to the devil. However, this also adheres to the theme of uncertainty because he often is not sure exactly how much power to exert. He goes from longing to kill an innocent traveler and shooting two men in order to establish his dominance to deciding not to kill the traveler and providing money and food for Ze Bebelo’s men who decide to leave the group. It is Diadorim who seems to keep him somewhat grounded in some situations. However, his power complex also leads him to question his relationship with Diadorim, such as when Diadorim sends a letter to Oticilia asking her to pray for Riobaldo.

From the first moment that Riobaldo meets Diadorim, he expresses love, admiration, and border line obsession for him. There are multiple highly sexual moments between him and Diadorim and he often contemplates telling him about his desires for him. There are also multiple instances when Riobaldo describes feelings of lust he has towards Diadorim. However, Riobaldo also sleeps with (and rapes) multiple women and repeatedly thinks about his future wife Otacilia. He is constantly thinking about both Diadorim and Oticilia in intimate ways, and repeatedly refers to his suspicion of Diadorim being jealous of Oticilia. Perhaps the most surprising aspect to his relationship with Diadorim is that he turns out to be a woman. Even after Diadorim dies and his true gender is revealed, Riobaldo often refers to her as “him”, implying a deep confusion imbedded within Riobaldo. Whenever Riobaldo describes interactions or events that include Diadorim to his listener, he often makes sure to emphasize the fact that he is happily married and loves his wife (Oticilia), as if he is trying to confirm with the listener that he is heterosexual. However, it is also interesting that Riobaldo talks about his love for Diadorim in a rather casual way. This may be because at that time he knew that Diadorim was actually a woman, however, he still discusses this in a manner that assumes there will be little to no judgment on the part of the listener. Considering that Western, and specifically American, culture tends to stigmatize such elements of sexuality in a negative context, this could be due to differences in cultural norms in the sense that the book is written with a different cultural context than most American readers are used to. It is also somewhat plausible that there isn’t necessarily any confusion about his sexuality. Although there clearly is some confusion in the sense that he simply doesn’t know that Diadorim is a woman until the very end, this may not necessarily mean that he was confused about his passion and desire for lust. Perhaps this is just another difference in cultural ideals. Our American culture sees love for a man and love for a woman having very different characteristics. However, in a more purist theoretical tradition, one might see love as a universal experience that doesn’t view gender as such a tangible and physical barrier. Also, besides the literal scientific classification that is gender, is it possible that some cultures or peoples don’t consider gender to be a legitimate utility of division when it comes to the concept of love and passion? Therefore, it is possible for there to be more than one critique of this aspect to the novel, as well as to all of the other aspects, depending on your cultural perspective. From a typical Western and American perspective, one is likely to argue that Riobaldo is sexually confused because of the incorrect blurring of the division that is gender. Meanwhile, a different cultural perspective (maybe Brazilian?) might claim that he is not confused but rather he is immersed in the spectrum that is love and passion.

All of these sub-themes can be extrapolated to show the uncertainty within Riobaldo himself in terms of who he wants to be. He is never completely certain if his soul is controlled by the devil, how much power to exert and whether it should be expressed in acts of good or evil, and to who his true sexual desires and passions belong. This state of uncertainty is also present in other aspects of the novel, including a constant change in allegiances among the juguncos (especially Riobaldo) and simple acts such as crossing a river. The concept of uncertainty is apparent in just about every major plot point, and to some extent, deeply imbedded in every individual. The implication of the environment (the sertao) which the jaguncos operate in being infinitely undefined and uncertain therefore implies that the juaguncos themselves are solidified in a similar state of uncertainty. Even the syntax and diction of the novel provides never ending uncertainty. The language is written/spoken in a way which provides for constant interpretation/translation. Riobaldo’s friend Quelemem states at the end of the novel “Don’t worry about that. It is the future that matters. To buy or to sell, sometimes, is almost the same thing” (492). This idea of “to buy or to sell” poses another dichotomy that encapsulates Riobaldo’s state of mind throughout the novel. Finally, the final sentence “The passage” (492), leaves much room for interpretation. Once could see this as simply attempting to sum up the entirety of the novel as the passage of Riobaldo’s life. It could also be interpreted as his passage through each of the various sub-themes I have analyzed. Although, perhaps the most sound explanation of this phrase is that it is meant to be interpreted in whichever way the reader instinctively does so. This would imply Rosa having a deep appreciation for various cultural norms and a strong ability to empathize with all of his various readers.

Another possibility to consider is that the story may in fact not even be true. Because the story is told by Riobaldo to another individual, it is plausible that he is in fact telling a story, rather than actual experiences he had. Once piece of evidence that could be used to support such a claim is that Riobaldo describes everything with extremely vivid details. It is stated that he is telling the story as a very old man, making it unlikely that he would realistically remember all of the events that make up such a detailed story. If we compare the sertao and jaguncos to cowboys and the wild west, one can imagine a young Brazilian boy growing up fascinated by such stories. Much the way that American boys often like to pretend to be a cowboy, maybe Rosa grew up with a somewhat similar attraction to jaguncos. If this is so, one can imagine a scenario in which he mirrored himself in his writing by creating a character who has the same fixation with juguncos, and therefore creates an elaborate story in which he can imagine himself being a character. However, this is merely literary speculation and this perception of an overly complicated story could simply be a rendition of a South American style of writing.

Rosa utilizes a choppy, complex, and deeply intrinsic style of writing that he seems to share with Roberto Bolano in 2666, who is another very well known South American novelist.  Both Bolano and Rosa seem to share a longing to explain complexity, and in some ways, anarchy. Once one accepts the reality of complexity, it is possible to better understand such a holistic system by analyzing the different components and how these components interact with each other and within the system. For example, the idea of sexuality presented in this novel can be considered to be represented by Reinaldo and Diadorim. Reinaldo is who is known to all of the juguncos, except for Riobaldo who knows him/her as Diadorim. It is possible that Rosa sees sexuality, or perhaps just love, as a complex system with the dual personalities/beings of Reinaldo/Diadorim reflecting the various components of this system.

Perhaps Rosa is attempting to present that the world is a never ending path of chaos and anarchy with certainty never truly existing. For example, consider the fact that to include one inherently means to exclude another. If it is solely stated that entity A does exist, then it is implied that B-Z does not in fact exist. Rosa makes sure to operate within the gray area of this equation of logic, never explicitly creating a foundation for truth for any of the actions or concepts that occur within his literature. This once again creates a sense of uncertainty, or perhaps just emphasizes the importance of perception. Similar to how the various jaguncos perceive Reinaldo differently than the way in which Riobaldo perceives Diadorim, the sertao can be perceived differently. It seems that the juguncos generally perceive the sertao as one whole entity, rather than that of different sections and areas. However, a fairly Western sense of geographic logic would interpret the sertao as having different sub-regions, which are separated by some tangible or intangible markers, or that there are actually various sertaos rather than just one. For the sake of following the underlying theme of this analysis, the only certainty that the reader experiences throughout this novel is uncertainty. This is why this novel is revered globally and is capable of captivating the reader in such a distinctive way.

Alex Nelson

Is It The Human or the Devil?

Can a person become evil by selling his or her soul to the devil, and thus losing ultimate control of his or her own fate?  Riobaldo asked this question constantly in The Devil to pay to in the Backlands.  In his own words, living is a dangerous thing.   This idea of the devil is a common theme throughout the book, but it is a theme to cover up repressed human traits and emotions which at times may be scary.  There were points in the plot were Rioblado was at a crossroads- he had to make the right or the wrong decision- if he made the wrong decision, does that mean that he had the devil inside him, or that he was just simply being human?  Also, what about the infamous Hermogenes and Ricardao, rather than being “devilish” couldn’t their murder of Jaco Ramiro have been a sign of extreme opinion. Another important element is the relationship between Riobaldo and Diadorim, which is a gay relationship that can be covered up by the “devil.”  This devil that was present in all of these situations was not really a devil, but a manifestation created out of his thoughts and fears and eventually he became obsessed with it.

“The most important and nicest thing in the world is this: that people aren’t always the same, they are not all of a piece and finished but keep on changing.” (17)  This constantly follows Riobaldo’s confusing state throughout his janguco way of living.  First, he begins with Ze Bebelo, but then he deserts him in order to join Jaco Ramiros army.  At the beginning, while dealing with Hermogenes’s rough army he thinks about going back to Ze Bebelo.  When Ze Bebelo was caught, Jaco Ramiro, quite naturally, decides to impose a peaceful punishment, however Hermogenes and Ricardao disagreed with this reaction.  As Riobaldo said in his own words “I saw that fights is the animal in is us, not the man.” (446) although, these two individuals are presented as the worst, the “animal” part of these men exists in all humans; “devil” is just a cover up to protect them and separate them.  Since they are afraid that Riobaldo and Diodorim might get involved, they also fear that the others will commit the same atrocities.

As the story progresses- Riobaldo starts questioning if Ze Bebelo’s own treachery, was to double cross them?  Therefore being “disloyal” did not really mean anything apart from a human quality, because all the big Jaguncos went through it. This was a human quality. Living is a dangerous matter.

Here is when we start to notice different crossroads in the stories, who is evil, who is not evil?  Who is loyal, who is disloyal?  We can question Riobaldo himself because, even though, he seems to be the good character, he does rape women (two) and this happens even before he makes the pact with the devil.  He describes his second rape, “Ah, it made me feel like a monster- and, would you believe it, sir- the girl was praying the while she endured me.” (145)  While Riobaldo was raping this woman, it was not the same Riobaldo who was questioning Ze Bebelos’s authority, it was not the same Riobaldo who was in love with Diadorim, and it was not the same Riobaldo who was fighting for justice, for Jaco Ramiro.  As he said before, it was the animal part that exists in all men, and that animal part for that moment was temptation; and he let temptation make the most of him when he decided to rape that girls.  However, that does not mean that he was not cruel that he was not a human.  That does not mean that he was evil, or that for that matter all the men were evil.  That just means he had a lapse of conscience, and made a mistake.  After Riobaldo had already made the pact with the devil, he was found in a similar situation when he felt tempted by the granddaughter of Seo Ornelas.   After making the pact, he felt that he wanted to hold the girl in his own arms, right in front of everybody and to commit all different kinds of the atrocities.  According to the people of those epochs, those who made the pact with the devil, had no limit and had no remorse, therefore he could do whatever he wanted. However for Riobaldo the pact with the devil seemed as an experiment for him, he was testing to see if it worked and he was questioning his acts much more than before.  Rather than hurting or raping this girl as he would do in the past, Riobaldo wanted to protect her, so he just told her; “My girl, when the time is ripe you shall a proper husband, one who is handsome and industrious, as you deserve and I pray I will not be here on that day to share in the festivals, but if ever the need arises, you and he can send for my protection…” (372). It is important to note that Riobaldo did not become weaker or lost his courage by not hurting this girl.  But the manifestation of the devil opened a new window in his mind, which therefore made him act in a different and more logical way.  Before, when we interacted with women he used to behave in an impulsive way, without thinking about the consequences, because he didn’t have a pact with the devil.  Now that he had “made the pact with the devil” (or he thought he did), he probably thought that everything would be faster and easier than before.  If he used to be tough, then now he would be even tougher. If before he raped two women, then now he should be able to rape six, or even ten without thinking.  Then he would just blame it in the fact that he sold his soul to the devil, he was “soulless.”  However, obviously, this was not the case.  This was one of several cases on which Riobaldo fears what he is actual capable of doing,  and realizes that it is  always easier to just blame the “devil,” because of course the devil, is just the other.  However, it is important to understand that seizing this little girl and causing her to scream in pain, would have been Riobaldo’s temptation.  However, temptation is a   human quality,   and this cannot be part of the devil.  In the same way, after Riobaldo analyzed the situation and came to his senses, his protective quality superseded his temptation, and that is why the situation ended in a positive manner.  But the fact of the matter is: how far can temptation (or other human quality) take a man?  Temptation can make a man lose control, thus causing him to seem “inhumane” and this seems to be the reason why men “sell their souls to the devil.”

After Riobaldo became chief of the Jaguncos he continued with this power struggle.  It seemed as if after he made this pact, he developed some sort of insecurity that affected his capacity to make any decisions.  He was always asking himself if it was him who was making the decision or if it was the devil was making it.  Another important question was to determine if an event was successful, it was   because of him or because the devil made it happen; so then the devil will be entitled to come and collect the due.  Therefore, Riobaldo was living as if he was walking on eggs, trying to make the “right” decision because he became so obsessed with this idea of the devil, that it was blocking his idea of reality.  For example, when he met a man who was born at the same place as him, he decided at first that he was going to kill him because: “he had a bad conscience and cash in his pocket and he deserved punishment by death.” (382)  But then, as in most situations after the pact- Riobaldo was confused, and did not know what to do; so he asked him a question if he would answer it correctly, he would live and if he answered it wrong he would die.  Since he answered correctly, then he didn’t kill him.   Riobaldo promised that the next man that will come across would pay with his death, but this seemed to be easier much easier said than done.   When the next man came across he was a poverty-stricken man, so Riobaldo didn’t want to kill him; in fact he even felt bad for him.  “I grew tense, there swelled up in me a strange feeling that I was going to cry, too.” (389)  In order to avoid killing him, initially Riobaldo said that the first one seen was not the man, but was actually his dog, so they had to kill his dog.  However, then he changed his mind, and decided to kill his horse instead of his dog.  Finally, they did not end up killing neither the dog nor the horse.  The point of both of these stories is to show that the psychologically torn up Riobaldo was becoming both a leader and a person.  As a leader he was expected to make solid decisions, and to go through with them, their main goal was of course to avenge the death of Jaco Ramiro- but if his people where to lose trust in him he would get nowhere.  But as a person, he was tearing himself apart.  Living is a dangerous matter, every decision has its consequences, but Riobaldo was tormenting himself by becoming obsessed with this idea of the devil and therefore losing focus on the war against Hermogenes, on leading his group, and on Diadorim.

Another important part that follows the whole story is the relationship between Riobaldo and Diadorim.  Although, they do not have an openly gay relationship, based on how Riobaldo describes what he feels towards Diadorim it is clear that their relationship is not just a friendship, at least in the emotional sense.

In a way, being a gay Jagunco is an oxymoron because being a Jagunco is all about masculinity.  It is about who is stronger, who is tougher, or who has more women.  When a man questions Diadorim’s masculinity in Hermogenes’s camp, he threatens the man’s life by making a very slight cut on the tip of his throat.

Also, though not explicitly said, Riobaldo does say that two Jagunco’s being close was not considered so normal.   But Riobaldo and Diadorim ‘s friendship or relationship goes very back to when they were children, the second time they met was when Riobaldo first escaped from Ze Bebelo, and he stayed in a little cabin, since he recognized Diadorim (Reinaldo) they did not hurt him, or question him so much.  After this encounter, their relationship started to develop, and when Diadorim actually told him his name, and as Riobaldo says it from then on “He did not want our friendship to be a mere accident, something casual without meaning. He was giving me his friendship. And friendship given is love.” (132)  Thus this clearly meant a lot to Riobaldo, because this little secret was not just a “name” like in Romeo and Juliet, a “rose is just a rose” but it had a deeper meaning to it.  The name brought a connection between Diadorim and Riobaldo and a turning point in their relationship.

Yet as much as their relationship develops throughout the story there were many frustrations for both Diadorim and Riobaldo.  First, it is very clear that they have repressed emotions about being gay and not being able to express them openly and directly; although they had a beautiful friendship, and felt beautiful emotions towards each other they clearly both wanted more; however that kind of society did not accept homosexuals, and if they were to be gay, they would probably would be considered “devils” (or something like that.)  This brings us to an important situation when Riobaldo actually want to sell his soul.  He says to Diadorim: “My loved one, if only it were daylight, so I could see the color of your eyes.”  This of course was the first direct demonstration of affection in a romantic manner

(although Diadorim disregarded quickly) from Riobaldo to Diadorim.  All the other ones had been part of his fantasies or he just made up.  It is important to note that most Jaguncos would be quick to say, the only reason that he is showing emotions from a man to a man is because he sold his soul to the devil.  He is soulless therefore it does not matter, yet us readers who know Riobaldo know that these emotions are not new- we know that Riobaldo has been dying to touch Diadorim.  His love for Diadorim has gotten stronger as the story has progressed thus the devil did not make him gay.

Another frustration, but more on Diadorim‘s side (although not discovered until the end) was that “he” was actually a “she.”  This is actually a bit ironic because Riobaldo says, “Where he a woman, no matter how haughty or disdainful, I would be emboldened to passionate word and deed.” (467)  Although not mentioned before, Diadorim does leave his sex always open.  He always took his midnight showers-, which seemed odd.  He had his very delicate features, which Riobaldo always described and also he never joined any of the other men when they went out looking for women.  But what was even most interesting was how even after finding out that Diadorim was a women- Riobaldo kept saying “he,” which just reveals that even if he does recognize that his relationship with Diaodirm may have been strange in a way, after Diadorim ‘s death, he finally accepted it.

An interesting parallelism between a story and actual event happens in the story.  In the beginning of the story (not through actual historical timeline, but the way that Riobaldo tells it) there is a man called Aleixo who seems to be very evil; he even kills a man for pure enjoyment.  By the end of this parable, he changes because his children become blind, but their suffering is justified because they used to be “evil.”  Could it not be possible that his children were just innocent children, and Aleixo is capable of having good and bad traits?  Similar to this theme of attacking the innocent, there was an actual battle where Hermogenes’s army attacked the other bands horses.  As, Riobaldo’s friend said “You understand what it was like: the horses covered with blood and red foam, dead and dying, laying on the ground against one another, the sound of their voices one long drawn- out wail like that of human beings in mortal terror- it made your hair stand on end. (381)  Similar to the parable it was Hermogene’s army who put the horses out of their misery, so under all of that devil there is some heart.

As we patch all of this together the real question to ask is are the Jaguncos selling’s their soul to the devils- and thus losing control of their fate or are they controlling their actions and simply demonstrating all sides of humans traits?  The problem is not that these Jaguncos are selling their souls, because even Riobaldo went to sell his “soul.” The problem is that this “devil” is the fear of what the human is actually capable of; because Jacungos live a very crazy life with very extreme emotions.  When those emotions go out of control, then the human being may be capable of many things.  What Riobaldo himself did not understand while trying to avenge the death of Jaco Ramiro is that Hermogenes and Ricardao are also humans and therefore admits the war may have murdered Jaco Ramiro because their “animal side” inside of them got wild.  Just like Riobaldo fell into temptation and raped those two women, just like Medeiero Vaz’s men ate a man by accident, just like Alexio murdered a man but then helped his kids.  What do all of these have in common? Either two things, either they all sold their souls to the devil or they are just simply humans, and living is a dangerous thing.  Treachery, temptation, homosexuality, fear, war, murder, love, hatred- it is impossible for the devil to “create” these emotions, at the end, it is “man who exists.”

Linda Feldman

Fear and Release

A word doesn’t necessarily remain within the boundaries of what it is: it slowly but firmly builds on its definition.  Its strength is measured by how it takes shape in the real world.  In Riobaldo’s world, there is one word that rules his life.  While the word infects Riobaldo’s mind and continues to grow in influence, readers notice the word take on more gruesome and oppressive shapes.  Riobaldo’s word is fear.  Within The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, readers see Joao Guimaraes Rosa personify fear to give the word even more power than the four letters initially contain.  The following essay is going to show examples of Riobaldo’s fear of self, created by mistakes he’s made, and his fear of life’s unpredictable nature.  While the heavy weight of making decisions cause Riobaldo to place responsibility on God and the devil, Guimaraes Rosa, both covertly and candidly, includes passages in the novel that prove Riobaldo acknowledges himself as the ultimate decision maker.  In addition, readers will see Guimaraes Rosa use the two religious figures not only as excuses but also symbols of good and evil existing in Riobaldo’s world.

To start this analysis, one must first reflect on Guimaraes Rosa’s personification of fear.  In examining Riobaldo’s fears, readers can understand Riobaldo’s motivation for resisting responsibilities.  By every bad choice he makes, Riobaldo must internally decide, “What kind of person does this thought or action make me?”  Much of time, Riobaldo gets a sense that his thoughts and actions are wrong, which lead to his natural inclination to abstain responsibility.  On page 71, fear is described as an object of great proliferation.  Riobaldo says, “Every hour of every day one discovers a new facet of fear” (Guimaraes Rosa, 71).  On page 128, a new facet of fear arises when Titão Passos claims Riobaldo might be killed as a deserter of Zé Bebelo’s men.  “I was stunned on hearing this, and could not answer.  The back of my tongue turned bitter.  Fear.  Fear that shackled me.  I saw myself cornered,” said Riobaldo (Guimaraes Rosa, 128).  Earlier in this passage, readers see Riobaldo glad that he could be of help to Joca Ramiro’s men, feeling, “a glow of pride and happiness,” but it was short lived when Passos mentions Riobaldo’s possible consequence for the choice of running away from Zé Bebelo – “they will want to kill you at once, as a deserter” (Guimaraes Rosa, 128).

Another example of Riobaldo being honest about his fears is found on page 155.  Riobaldo says:

What held me back was the fear of making a mistake, of falling into danger through my own fault.  Today I know: dwelling upon fear, that was it.  Fear of making a mistake.  I have always had it.  Fear of making a mistake is my trouble.  That’s bad.  If we could get rid of that fear of making a mistake, we would be saved. (Guimaraes Rosa, 155)

In this passage, Riobaldo was responding to a reflection he made on why he wouldn’t run away from jagunço life.  His reason, more or less, included this big piece of motivation: by leaving and becoming isolated he wouldn’t be able to escape possible consequences for his own decision.  Hence, he stayed with the jagunços until the bitter end.  What may be interesting to readers is the concluding sentence of the block quote.  In Riobaldo’s situation, to break free from the pack of jagunços, and overcome his fear of choosing to leave, could have meant making the right choice and being saved.  Riobaldo’s fresh new start would have been the direct result of defeating his fears, if only he gathered enough courage to do so.

Being part of a group of bandits acts as a symbol of something greater, a symbol of distancing ones self from individual responsibility.  “A person is never entirely himself as long as he is a part of a whole,” said Riobaldo (Guimaraes Rosa, 155).  Riobaldo then engaged readers by describing numerous bandits and their individual interests, making them not of themselves but as parts of a whole.  Riobaldo concluded that even though riding out life as a bandit meant yielding to a jagunço’s harsh plans, it was better than dealing with his individual consequences.  Riobaldo said, “Were I to leave, I would have to make all my own decisions, with death hovering in the background.  Was man made to go it alone?  He was.  But I did not know it then” (Guimaraes Rosa, 156).  With these sentences, Riobaldo not only reaffirms his fear of making decisions but adds that man is made to deal with the results of individual choices.  Riobaldo, of course, didn’t know that then.  But at the end of the novel, Riobaldo concludes, “It is man who exists,” and each man needs to take responsibility for his actions (Guimaraes Rosa, 492).  Readers may assume that although he didn’t know then, he grew to know the pain of individual choices, specifically the pain of choosing to stay rather than leave jagunço life.

Riobaldo’s main fear may have been having to deal with his own mistakes, but by use of dialogue between a questioning Riobaldo and answering jagunço Jõe Bexiguento on page 185, a new dimension to Riobaldo’s core problem is created.  “By what right could we, jagunços that we were, expect to enjoy God’s forgiveness and protection, I asked, heatedly.  ‘Well, gosh!  We’re alive, aren’t we?’ was his answer” (Guimaraes Rosa, 185).  This quote shows that Riobaldo didn’t just fear doing wrong as a jagunço, but he feared that everything a jagunço life seemed to represent might be unforgivable.  Before  his ultimate question to Bexiguento, Riobaldo said, “A jagunço – a creature paid to commit crimes, bringing suffering down upon quiet communities, killing and pillaging?  How could he be forgiven?” (Guimaraes Rosa, 185)  The problem isn’t just making a mistake and feeling like a bad person, it’s also about the degree of the mistake, the possibility of the ultimate error – making an unforgivable mistake.  This new dimension makes Riobaldo’s issue more complex: Riobaldo would rather stay with the morally evil bandits but Riobaldo shows both a smudge of hope and a bit of self contempt when he, first, questions the possibility of forgiveness and, second, continues questioning doubtfully.  It’s obvious to the reader that Riobaldo is trailing on a lengthy path, subconsciously itching for the answer, “yes, of course you can be forgiven,” but by his emphasis of a jagunço’s sinful nature, it’s as if Riobaldo is putting up a front to avoid the pain of another possible reality – he’s made unforgivable mistakes and he must learn to live with them.

Riobaldo’s long and painful journey with fear continues from start to finish of the novel.  Another example of his fears occur on page 117 when he says, “I suddenly found myself in the grip of fear – fear only of myself, a self which I no longer recognized” (Guimaraes Rosa, 117).  Another example shows Guimaraes Rosa personifying fear as a concept that adds confusion to Riobaldo’s life.  On page 129, Riobaldo says, “I wasn’t thinking clearly, I couldn’t.  Fear would not let me.  My head was in a fog, my brain was spinning.  My heart changed it’s position.  And our journey through the night continued.  While I suffered the tortures of fear” (Guimaraes Rosa, 129).  To transition this analysis from Riobaldo’s fear of mistakes to his recognition of responsibility, page 393 shows Riobaldo questioning if he sold his soul to the devil.  “Did I sell my soul to someone?  Did I sell my soul to someone who does not exist?  That would be even worse,” said Riobaldo (Guimaraes Rosa, 393).  Riobaldo can’t sell his soul to that which does not exist, meaning there is a possibility that he never sold his soul at all.  That possibility would be, “even worse,” because that means the devil can no longer be credited as his excuse for behavior; Riobaldo is unfortunately left responsible.

On page 464, Riobaldo describes a pact with the devil something that anyone can have.  “I was only concerned lest it occur to someone to add: ‘He has a pact.’ Ah.  And suppose he did?  That did not mean he had special privileges of any kind.  Does not the devil belong to everybody?” (Guimaraes Rosa, 464)  In this passage, Riobaldo describes a pact with the devil not as something reserved to only the bad in the world but rather he described the devil as free for the taking, something up for grabs by anyone.  The fact that he reflects the devil belonging to everyone suggests that he believes that anyone has the opportunity to choose bad, no matter how good you are or once were.  An earlier example in the novel that places emphasis on choice and learned behavior is found on page 143.  “It is hard, sometimes, to be always evil; it takes practice in villainy, experience.  But as time went by everybody’s mind became poisoned” (Guimaraes Rosa, 143).  Riobaldo was afraid that Hermógenes men would find Riobaldo to be, “soft-hearted,” and learn Riobaldo wasn’t made for the roughness of the sertão.  This fear pushed Riobaldo to, “practice in villainy,” in order to prove he was tough enough to handle the backlands.  While over time everyone’s mind was effected from the experiences as a jagunço, it wasn’t necessarily the bandits falling victim to the backlands but rather each bandit had made the decision to practice being bad, everyone had chosen to fight, to grow stronger and more cold with experience.  Even if Riobaldo wasn’t made for the backlands and didn’t normally have a hard heart, none of that mattered.  The only thing that is certain is that, regardless of being made for the backlands or not, Riobaldo was there; he had made the choice to live that life, and a poisoned mind was just one of the negative things that resulted from living a bandits life.

On pages 401-402, Riobaldo thinks very boldly that he doesn’t belong to anybody other than himself.  “‘I do not belong to the devil and I do not belong to God!’ I thought savagely, as if I had uttered the words; but the utterance would have had to be spoken in two voices, one very different from the other” (Guimaraes Rosa, 401-402).  If Riobaldo didn’t belong to either God nor the devil, he remained the leader of his life.  The last sentence of this quote illustrates more vividly Riobaldo’s human condition of containing both good and bad inside of him and the continual battle of choosing right or wrong.  Another truth that Riobaldo gives to the reader earlier on in the novel acts as proof of responsibility.  On page 239, Riobaldo says, “Whatever is peaceful grows of its own accord” (Guimaraes Rosa, 239).

Another big passage that shows Riobaldo carrying faith in himself rather than faith in anything else is on page 449 when he describes how he is able to gain courage.  Riobaldo says:

The fact is, courage is something you can always absorb more of – like air: you can take more and more of it into your lungs, no matter how full, by breathing deeper.  By my faith, that’s what I did.  I tell you: if I did not praise God, ah neither did I attach myself to the devil.  I spoke one name alone, softly but passionately, and I thought it even more intensely.  It was: Urutú Branco!  White Rattler!  Urutú Branco!  And that was me.  I knew what I wanted. (Guimaraes Rosa, 449)

Even though throughout the majority of this novel, Riobaldo fears himself, the mistakes he makes, and of being unsure, somehow Riobaldo is able to muster up enough faith in himself to stir up some courage.  Riobaldo admits that the courage he attains isn’t from any religious figure but rather himself, only he is responsible for such a creation.  Gaining courage was as simple as absorbing more of it up.

Both God and the devil are mentioned again as figures with the power to punish and rule by their own terms, but even so, readers see Riobaldo’s choice as something that triumphs over any consequences that can be thrown his way.  On page 454, Riobaldo says:

Was God punishing me – for there comes a time – or had the devil begun to haggle?  I saw that I could choose between letting my feelings go in the direction of unhappiness or of joy – far, far to the very end, as far as the sertão is vast” (Guimaraes Rosa, 454).

Another example used to place emphasis on choice is one that Guimaraes Rosa cleverly places in his novel by bringing up a well-known biblical character that changed the course of history.  On page 452, Riobaldo said, “I really think everyone heaved a sigh.  I tell you, this right hand of mine had fired almost by itself.  What I know is, it returned Adam to dust.  That’s just my way of talking” (Guimaraes Rosa, 452).  For readers that are familiar with the story of God’s creation and the first two humans on Earth, this small, one-time-only comment about Adam is a significant one that should be examined and picked apart carefully.  The story of the Adam and Eve is a story that ends with Eve being tricked to eat fruit off of the one tree forbidden by God, and Adam eventually follows suit.  The moral of both Riobaldo’s quote and this story is that Riobaldo, like Adam, is susceptible to sin and evil in the world.  Readers all know that Riobaldo’s hand didn’t fire and shoot people, but rather it was Riobaldo himself who made the decision to fire his gun.  By Riobaldo mentioning that his urge to fire his gun, “returned Adam to dust,” it’s symbolic of Riobaldo’s sinful nature: by one corrupt shot of the gun, this perfect model of man is destroyed.

Perfection ceases to exist in Riobaldo’s world.  While this creates fear and confusion for Riobaldo, he learns to take it day by day, pushing forward to make choices and attempt to stand by them to the best of his ability.  Riobaldo is found on page 186 saying, “The thing I have always insisted on, you know, sir, is that what is good must be good and what is bad, bad; that black be on one side and white on the other; that ugliness be well apart from beauty, and happiness far from sadness … This is a very mixed-up world” (Guimaraes Rosa, 186).  Riobaldo has always been a reflective individual, desiring answers for the mixed up world where he resides – anything to comfort him and soothe ugly truths or reckless fears.  If there is one thing that life has proved to Riobaldo, it is, “to strive for exactitude makes one blunder” (Guimaraes Rosa, 70).  In Riobaldo’s world, there has never been one universal answer for all his problems.  Perhaps not being able to attach reason to a problem extends all that he fears.

Kelly Rodrigues

The Crossroads

When reading a book, the thing most people look for first is enjoyment. Is this book going to please me? Am I going to feel fulfilled? Am I going to feel accomplished after reading it or drained? What most people don’t seem to look for, but what I believe should become a higher standard, is that whether or not the book is going to challenge you. It wasn’t until I read the novel The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Joao Guimaraes Rosa that I had this realization and discovered the importance of how a book makes you think. In this novel, we have the general plot focused on a man from Brazil named Riobaldo. In the story, we are set in the older days of Riobaldo’s life as we travel back in time with him through his days of being a young and wild jagunco. Throughout the story, we see Riobaldo go through many life changing choices as he is changed from a man of standards to lost, confused, hungry leader. Rosa subtly demonstrates how certain choices became a ruling factor over Riobaldo’s life where the outcome was met at a crossroad and a decision had to be made. Being certain of something, of anything, is a thing to be craved and desired. In his novel, Rosa shows us through desires and decisions of his characters that they “wanted certainty in place of uncertainty, something that had meaning” (Rosa, 349) and they would do almost anything to get it.

As a reader, Rosa challenges us to conceptualize and think about what is going on in the story, just as Riobaldo is challenged about what choices he should make along the way. One of the first challenges we encounter is when Riobaldo is a jagunco and is in the desert. Before he is a leader, Riobaldo and Diadorim, his companion, could be classified as the outsiders of the group. They tend not to go along with what the others are doing at night, parting, sleeping around, etc, and even at times they are questioned for their lack of participation in the group. One night in the desert, the group of juagunco’s are pretty delusional. They have been walking for  while and are without food, without water, and without sleep. At a point where sanity is vulnerable, a group of men find a “monkey”, which ends up being a human being. They decide to kill this monkey and eat it, but Riobaldo feels inconclusive about this decision. Here, we encounter our first crossroads. Although it may not seem like that big of a choice, this decision can be a deciding factor for the readers opinion and view of where Riobaldo lies on the spectrum of good vs. evil. At this crossroad, Riobaldo has to choose whether to join along with the group and kill and eat or to surpress his hunger and walk away. As Riobaldo choses to walk away from this temptation, we discover him as someone with a good heart and who isn’t afraid to stick with his own choices, or matter what people say about him. Riobaldo defines himself at the beginning of this novel as a character that the reader can root for and believe that his good morals will keep him out of trouble.

As we get further into the novel, we discover a crossroad that Riobaldo has been battling for some time, his love for Diadorim. Riobaldo walks us through this mental battle and throughout the story we wonder when a choice is going to have to be made. Throughout the entire novel, we see this struggle and see how Riobaldo feels about this struggle and Rosa keeps us waiting and preparing us for the time when the crossroad is going to come. Although we never make it to the actual crossroad itself, the emotions that we encounter make it to be one of the biggest decisions that we believe Riobaldo is going to have to make. As a reader, we are able to quickly discover that Riobaldo loves to be in love. Riobaldo is never characterized as feminine and never gives us a reason to doubt his masculinity besides the fact that he is completely in love with Diadorim. One would think that this would obviously make us question Riobaldo’s masculinity, but it doesn’t. As Riobaldo struggles with his feeling and as Diadorim struggles with his feelings, we struggle as well. Do they actually love each other or is more just the brotherly type? Is either one going to act on this love? Will Riobaldo ever admit it to Diadorim? Or will it all just be repressed? As the characters, and the readers, struggle through these emotions, we are pulled back and forth with what Riobaldo is going to do. Yes he loves Diadorim, but he also sleep with multiple women, rapes women, and talks dearly of his future wife Oticilia. As the book comes to an end and we know the outcome of Riobaldo’s love life, his marriage to Oticilia, we still wonder if and when a choice is going to have to be made and how Riobaldo will make it. However, after much anticipation of the approaching crossroad, it never comes. We wait and wait to see what is going to happen and just with one stab everything becomes clear. The anticipated crossroads of where Riobaldo choses Diadorim or Oticilia is decided by fate when Diadorim is killed. Along with the forgoing struggle of gay love for another man when we discover that Diadorim is actually a woman. Although this crossroad never occurs, the build up and emotional struggle for a moment that never comes, makes it one of the biggest choices that Riobaldo, so we think, is going to have to make.

As the novel moves on, another crossroad that we encounter is Riobaldo’s deal with the devil. From the very beginning we hear him talk of the devil and whether or not he exists. But even beyond that, he talks about making deals with the devil and how it is impossible and if our soul belongs to anybody, it belongs to God. So as we get further into the novel and see this troublesome nature of Riobaldo start to appear, we begin to wonder who this man really is and if we truly know the man who is speaking. All of a sudden, we journey with Riobaldo himself to make a deal with the devil. This crossing that we arrive at confuses the audience and makes us reevaluate everything that we have read of this character so far. Is Riobaldo good or is he bad? Not only is the reader uncertain of what is going on, but we and Riobaldo himself become uncertain of whether or not he actually made the deal with the devil. He states that he was absolutely sure that the devil heard him and that he felt the power rise up inside of him but then he also states his own confusion in the matter and how he is uncertain if the pact was truly made. Therefore, the devil can be defined as a concept that is uncertain in itself. As Riobaldo meets the devil at this crossroad, he has to make the choice of going all in and believing that the devil does exist or turning around and giving up his thirsted power. As we think that the decision has been made at the crossroad and Riobaldo makes his deal with the devil, the further we move on in the story, the more uncertain we become of this decision. Here, at this crossroad, we are able to finally discover that at a crossing, everything is uncertain. There is no clear black or white, or right or wrong, each crossing is left to the interpretation of the reader.

As we root for and believe the best in Riobaldo, we begin to see this desire for power overtake those high moral and standards that we saw in him in the beginning. Finally, we come to our last crossroad, the one that we ourselves encounter. In the end, is Riobaldo’s heart good or bad? Throughout the novel we see this rise of power come up out of Riobaldo and start to take away all the good that we saw in him before. In the beginning, we are drawn to his good heart and his independence, but as power rises, he becomes a hungry leader and that “good heart” of his is sold to the devil. As his power increases, so does his craving for more of it. We go from him wanting to kill the two “Judas’” because they sold their soul to the devil, to him doing the same exchange himself, the worst evil he could do. However, after all of this happens, we are still left uncertain if all hope is lost. Although Riobaldo says that he sold his soul to the devil, he also continually states that the devil does not exist. Does the devil exist? Did he actually make a pact with it? Is there any hope left for Riobaldo? All of these questions leave as gripping on to that one last piece of hope that there is still good inside of Riobaldo. So at the end, we, the reader, come to a crossroad. Is Riobaldo a lost cause and gone for good? Or can the good still out win the evil? It is up to us to decide. However, I believe, that just like the world, there cannot be good without evil. Riobaldo says that he sold his soul and tries to be tough, but when it comes down to it, we still see that glimmer inside of him. He could have chosen to sleep with the daughter, or kill that man, or kill the older man that he encountered, or even kill that annoying yapping dog that was with him, but he chose not to. Riobaldo let his thirst for power get to his head. But although he lost control of who he was does not mean that he cannot go back and find that man again. In the end, as he is telling his story, he seems to be a man of regained morals and values. He states that it is not the devil who exists, but it is man who exists. We have control over ourselves, and this final crossroad makes us chose if we want to believe in the greater good or if we believe that there is no going back.

In conclusion, the theme of uncertainty in this novel is to be expected because it is not supposed to make complete sense. The vague concepts and the inconclusive crossroads, leave it up to you to formulate what has or what is going to happen. That is why this book challenges you, Rosa leave it up to the reader to interpret themselves the impact of every encounter. The uncertainty of Rioblado’s feelings for Diadorim, his pact with the devil, and his actions of good vs. evil demonstrate the true meaning of this novel; that everything is uncertain. The way that Rosa chooses to write this novel provides a constant need for interpretation and translation. He makes you interpret and evaluate every character and every situation. Not only does he make you pay attention and focus on the details, but he also makes it to where you have to understand the underlining meaning of every word and every feeling and every encounter. Rosa even ends with an uncertain statement that leaves the reader questioning what he means. As we end the novel with the final words of “The passage” (492), it is interesting because most novels decide to end with something deep and meaningful that ties up the rest of the book. However, as we have determined, Rosa is not like most novelist. He decides to leave us with a statement that perhaps tries to prove to us the final meaning that life itself is uncertain. That the passage through this world is full of crossroads and chaos that will never makes sense and even we ourselves will never be able to be certain of.

Savannah Connor

Internal Struggle

The friendship growing between Riobaldo and Reinaldo is not a typical friendship. Riobaldo has “normal” friendships with other men he associates himself with, but for some reason Reinaldo catches his attention in a very different way. Ever since he meets Reinaldo Riobaldo craves the attention he receives from Reinaldo. He thinks about Reinaldo during what some would consider “intimate” activities, which lead him to truly think about his feelings. Why is he suddenly attracted to a man when his entire life he had been attracted to women? Why does he imagine himself in sexual scenarios with Reinaldo and now a woman? Could he be gay? Is he craving the sexual touch from Reinaldo because he loves Reinaldo as more than just a friend? Is he in love with Reinaldo? These thoughts definitely crossed Riobaldo’s mind, because he begins to question his sexuality because of his close relationship with Reinaldo. He has a continuous struggle with himself because of the thought that he might potentially be in love with Reinaldo. He tries to deny his feelings and convince himself that he is not gay, but his homosexual feelings and reoccurring thoughts toward Reinaldo are bringing back the many questions he has about being gay. In the novel, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Joao Guimaraes Rosa, Riobaldo is confused and internally struggling with his friendship with Reinaldo, because it becomes more than just a typical friendship; it becomes a “bromance,” or even a sexual relationship.

Riobaldo and Reinaldo enjoy spending time with each other after being paired together on sentry duty. Reinaldo taught Riobaldo to appreciate the beauty of bird watching. After Reinaldo told him to just take some time to look at the birds, Riobaldo “looked and grew calmer. The sun shone deep in the river, the island stood out clear. ‘And those over there- how beautiful!”’ (Guimaraes Rosa 121) Prior to meeting Reinaldo, Riobaldo states that he never met anyone who just stopped to watch birds fly, but it taught Riobaldo a good lesson about life. He taught him how to step back and appreciate life and the beauty that life gives off. Reinaldo loves watching the birds and taught him that he can’t help but liking them too. According Riobaldo, “he was right, but the way he said it surprised me. The softness of his voice, the unstudied warmth, the whimsical idea” (Guimaraes Rosa 121) surprised him because all of this came from a tough jagunco. This is when he began to grow fond of Reinaldo. He began to notice Reinaldo’s softer side and it made him feel happier noticing this side of him and he “felt now he could like him even more” (Guimaraes Rosa 121). Even Riobaldo knew that this was the beginning of a newfound friendship, but then once he opened up Reinaldo, things began to become something other than just a typical friendship.

There are many men, called jaguncos, who are a part of the army following Ze Bebelo or Joca Ramiro; however their relationships with one another do not reach the level that Riobaldo’s and Reinaldo’s friendship does. These two men have an abundance of sexual tension between them, which was discovered after these men opened up to each other. The sexual tension is not typical for a man on man friendship. They share intimate secrets with one another. “Riobaldo, there is something personal that I must tell you, I cannot hide it any longer, Listen: my name is not really Reinaldo” (Guimaraes Rosa 131). Reinaldo trusts in his friendship with Riobaldo just enough that he tells him that his real name is Diadorim and not Reinaldo. Riobaldo loves the fact that Reinaldo can trust him with such an intimate secret, and this helps these men grow very fond of each other in many different ways. These two men balance each other out and help each other keep a level head.

They trust each other as friends; however, Riobaldo begins to have a sexual type fantasy about Reinaldo, which is very abnormal in a normal man on man friendship. Riobaldo constantly catches himself daydreaming or thinking about Reinaldo after their bird watching, to the point where it seems as if he is falling head over heels for Reinaldo. One of these times where Riobaldo cannot get Reinaldo out of his head includes when he is about to take a bath in the river. As he begins to dip his toes in the cold rushing river to take his bath, “There was happiness in the air and in my thoughts.”(Guimaraes Rosa 123) As Riobaldo was naked and getting in the water, he closed his eyes and let his mind wander. He began to have thoughts about Reinaldo until he realized he got a “disturbing pleasure” from taking this bath just because Reinaldo told him to.

Riobaldo then proceeds to explain to himself that he is very fond of women and has never previously been attracted to men. But if he’s attracted to women, why would he have these sexual fantasies about Reinaldo? He is basically trying to convince himself that he does not have any feelings for Reinaldo. He wants to completely ignore the fact that he is continuously having these feelings and brush them off because he is struggling to see himself as “gay.” However, Riobaldo seems to be falling in love with Reinaldo as more than just a friend more and more each day.

Riobaldo constantly has the “desire to get as close to him” as he could, “craving almost to inhale the odor of his body” (Guimaraes Rosa 124). This is more than just a typical friendship for Riobaldo. He cannot fully comprehend why he is receiving so much pleasure from being close to Reinaldo, but this may be because he does not want to consider himself gay. Riobaldo feels as though his body gets taken over when he gets anywhere near Reinaldo. He constantly has to force himself to remember that he is attracted to women and that he has never been attracted to a man before. However, all signs point to the fact that Riobaldo is gay and has sexual feelings toward Reinaldo.

When Riobaldo would get a headache or sick he would think “If only Diadorim were there: it was all I needed to make me happy…his silent presence would have been sufficient” (Guimaraes Rosa 182). Riobaldo imagines that even Reinaldo’s presence would be able to make him feel better. Having Reinaldo right there next to him would be just enough for Riobaldo to gain enough energy to not have his headache or to not feel sick anymore. His companionship gives Riobaldo an odd type of comfort that a normal friendship would not usually give him. Riobaldo would crave the presence of Reinaldo regularly, but then stops himself and begins to wonder again if he is truly gay and has actual sexual feelings for his friend, Reinaldo. He struggles and struggles a great deal internally because he typically would consider himself “straight” and not “gay.”

As their friendship or relationship continues to flourish jealousy comes into play. Reinaldo has had many other friends prior to meeting Riobaldo but that does not stop from becoming upset and jealous about his previous friendships. Riobaldo stated that he “took a personal offense that Diadorim (Reinaldo) should have had a bosom friend before me, even though it was a long time ago” (Guimaraes Rosa 145). He did not like that Reinaldo kept mentioning his previous friend that he was so fond of and that he was had a close relationship with. Right after he mentions how jealous he was about this former friendship of Reinaldo’s, he then proceeds to realize that he needs a woman. He talks with Reinaldo about his previously relationship with women and how he treated them previously. He talked about how he took advantage of women before and how he felt. He deems it necessary to express this as if he is trying to show Reinaldo that he has had feelings for women before. However, as much as he tries to convince himself in his head, and convince Reinaldo, he continues to have such jealous feelings or sexual feelings. He then feels forced to convince himself and everyone else around him that he is not interested in men in that way. His jealousy is just another obvious sign that points toward the fact that Riobaldo is gay, but he is having a very tough time coming to terms with this fact.

Riobaldo’s feelings grow stronger and stronger. He thought of Reinaldo as “not merely someone to be with, to talk with, to see” (Guimaraes Rosa 152) or to have in his life. Riobaldo “could not stand to go on living if suddenly he had to be separated from him forever” (Guimaraes Rosa 152). Riobaldo was planning on running away forever, but he could not stand the idea of having to leave Reinaldo behind. His feelings toward Reinaldo had grown so strong that he never wanted to live without him in it. He craved the presence of Reinaldo at all times because he was falling more and more in love with him each day. He had even thought of an idea and said “Let’s go away from here together, Diadorim (Reinaldo)? Let’s go far away, to the landing on the Janerio River, to the plains of the sertao, to Curralim, Sao-Gregorio, or to that plave in the uplands called Os-Porcos, where your uncle lived” (Guimaraes Rosa 153). Riobaldo is desperate to have Reinaldo come with him. He almost needs to have Reinaldo with him that he is willing to go wherever Reinaldo wants and live wherever Reinaldo wants if he is able to be with him forever. This seems a bit desperate for someone who is trying to convince himself that he just loves Reinaldo as a friend. Riobaldo’s true feelings and love for Reinaldo are becoming more apparent which, in turn, make them harder and harder for Riobaldo to blow off, ignore, and/or deny.

There came a time where Reinaldo could not be in Riobaldo’s live however. Because of this separation, Riobaldo felt as though he was being forced to forget about Reinaldo completely. Yet, in his “efforts to forget Diadorim (Reinaldo), a feeling of sadness came over him and a deep fatigue” (Guimaraes Rosa 194). He could not let go of all the memories they shared together. Riobaldo wanted to hold on to Reinaldo as much as he could. He was truly upset about Reinaldo disappearing and not having him in his life anymore. Riobaldo became sick with the idea of potentially never seeing Reinaldo again. He then felt as though he had to just let go and forget anything ever happened between he and Reinaldo, but it was harder than he thought it was going to be.

Suddenly, Reinaldo reappeared in his life, and Riobaldo considered this a “white miracle.” He tried to brush it off, however, and pretend as though he was not ecstatic to see Reinaldo again. His heart was beating fast but he acted like he didn’t care. Once they made small talk, Riobaldo’s feelings all rushed back to him and he felt himself “loving him beyond all reason, loving him even more than before. With all my heard at his feet, to be trampled upon. I had been loving him the whole time” (Guimaraes Rosa 199). He came to the conclusion that Reinaldo was someone that he truly loved as more than just a friend. He did have sexual fantasies about Reinaldo, and he did want him in his life. Riobaldo realized that he did not want to lose Reinaldo out of his life ever again. It hurt him way too much to the point where it made him sick thinking about never seeing Reinaldo again. He knew he was not going to be able to give up Reinaldo forever. He cherished the friendship that they shared together. He was overjoyed when Reinaldo came back and he knew for a fact that he never wanted him to leave again.

This realization confused Riobaldo once again. He did not think he was gay, but everything that he and Reinaldo shared pointed to the fact that he was gay. Riobaldo never imagined himself as homosexual but he knew he wanted Reinaldo in his life. Aside from all his feelings, Riobaldo is still trying to convince himself that he does not have true feelings for Reinaldo. His internal struggle is definitely taking an exceedingly large toll on his ability to focus.

Although it seems as though Riobaldo was the only one pursuing this relationship, Reinaldo also had some feelings toward Riobaldo. Reinaldo “harbored a hatred for Otacilia” (Guimaraes Rosa 160), and this was very apparent to Riobaldo. Otacilia is a woman that Riobaldo imagines himself marrying, and he confides this information in Reinaldo. According to Riobaldo, Reinaldo was jealous of any woman, especially one that Riobaldo showed interest in, or one that showed interest in Riobaldo. However, there is a time where Reinaldo tells Riobaldo that he should go off and marry Otacilia, the woman from the window at the farm. He sucks up his pride and tells Riobaldo what he thinks Riobaldo wants to hear, but Riobaldo gets caught up in the “tenderness in his voice, like nectar in a flower” (Guimaraes Rosa 309). Reinaldo even pushes him to go off and marry her, but Riobaldo does not even comprehend the actual words Reinaldo is saying because he is so focused on the beautifulness of his voice. He is attracted to the soft and tenderness of Reinaldo’s voice and disregards the fact that Reinaldo just told him to go off and marry Otacilia.

Riobaldo went off to find Otacilia, after convincing himself that he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. However, this was all in the midst of a battle in which Reinaldo did not survive. “Diadorim (Reinaldo) had died- irrevocably- and was gone from me forever…I did not want to hear it; tears filled my eyes” (Guimaraes Rosa 483). He asked to see the body of Reinaldo, when he had a sudden revelation. Reinaldo was a woman. He was shocked beyond and thought that “pain is no greater than surprise” (Guimaraes Rosa 485). He saw the beauty of this woman and realized that he was completely in love with her and he kissed her and imagined what she would be like with long hair. It was then that he overcame his life-long struggle. He realized that this entire time he was trying to convince himself that he was not in love with Reinaldo because he was a man. However, he finally came to the realization that Reinaldo was in fact a woman. He knew the entire time that he had sexual fantasies about Reinaldo, and was so hurt when Reinaldo was not in his life for a short period of time. Reinaldo’s death saddened him, and he did not know whether to call him a he or a she, so he just shouted out “My love!” (Guimaraes Rosa 485). He found out that he had been in love with her and “she had been in love with me” (Guimaraes Rosa 486). His internal struggle had finally been resolved for himself because Reinaldo had been a woman all along.

Throughout the novel, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Joao Guimaraes Rosa, the main character, Riobaldo becomes exceedingly fond of his friend Reinaldo. Their friendship is taken to a new level when he begins to daydream about Reinaldo constantly and craves his attention. He finds himself getting caught up on the way Reinaldo says things as opposed to what he is actually saying. He himself questions whether or not he is truly into Reinaldo as more than just a friend because he thinks that he is into women. He has an internal struggle throughout the entire novel because he does not consider himself gay. On many occasions he has to tell himself that he loves women even though his actions prove otherwise. At the end of the novel, Reinaldo is killed and it is then that Riobaldo finds out that Reinaldo has been a woman this entire time. His love for Reinaldo flourishes throughout the whole novel even though it is though that Reinaldo is a man. Many can argue that he may still be considered gay because he thought Reinaldo was a man the whole time and his sexual fantasies were still apparent. However, the internal struggle for Riobaldo was solved one he found out that Reinaldo was a woman.

Jessica Moreno

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands

In the intricate novel The Devil to Pay in the Backlands Joao Guimaraes Rosa accounts the story of a troubled man named Riobaldo through the character himself as he narrates his jagunco ventures within the Brazilian back-country. The novel anatomizes several characters and philosophizes but if there is something it assures is that nothing is certain.

Since the beginning of the novel it is unclear who Riobaldo discusses with, leaving the audience to speculate whether or not Riobaldo is deranged and finds companionship within himself, introducing the soon familiar theme that uncertainty may be contradictory simultaneously. Throughout the novel Riobaldo creates several enemies, but his most noteworthy nemisis is Hermogenes, a rugged backland jagunco harboring evil and may have made a deal with the devil. Rosa structures the rivalry between the two through continuous parallel discord regarding their instinctive evil.  In a sense, Riobaldo and Hermogenes commence their opposition and Riobaldo’s borderline unhealthy fascination with the devil after the death of Joca Ramiro. As their antagonism unravels Hermogenes leads a gang of Hermogenes’ igniting Riobaldo’s  ambition as a competent and pivotal jagunco. Still, time after time Hermogenes evades danger and consequence, facilitating the assumption that Hermogenes made a pact with He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named.  Concurrently, Riobaldo’s thirst for empowerment and increasing curiosity branches into the novels greatest uncertainty, the devil.

Throughout the novel Riobaldo contemplates the existence of an infernal entity and seems to be attempting to convince himself there is no such thing.  At a certain point Riobaldo tells the unknown listener that there “really is no devil. It is God who lets the instrument tune itself as it wishes, until it is time to dance”. This can translate into the idea that instead of an evil spirit persuading him to commit and think the things he does, it is intrinsic nature that incessantly unravels until death. Under this thought, Riobaldo himself had become the devil. Before Riobaldo’s breakdown in the woods calling out the name of the devil, Hermogenes catalyzed Riobaldo’s transformation. One can say Riobaldo subconsciously demanded Satan out of himself, only then would he be appropriate to take Zé Bebelo’s mantle as jagunco leader. After all, Riobaldo fears that the mere mention of Beelzebub’s name he will incarnate or perhaps, Riobaldo fears incarnating the evil within himself. Another consideration thought to be wise is whether Riobaldo felt the need to fight fire with fire.  Hermogenes was rumored to have made a pact with the devil which had empowered him with sheer luck and prevalence. In order to go head to head with this eminence he would have to take part in selling his soul.

As The Devil to Pay in the Backlands carefully structures anecdotes and symbolic characters through Riobaldo’s narration, the novel plays off of Riobaldo’s internal strife regarding his inclination to revenge the death of Joca Ramiro and confounding with the devil. While Rosa establishes powerful storytelling and enthralls the audience with Riobaldo’s philosophical puzzlements, the major element which is Riobaldo’s contact with Satan or exploitation of instinct can contradict and still be unsure in its outcome.

Alejandro Miranda-Bayardi

The Good the Bad and This Essay

In the novel “The Devil to Pay in the Backlands” by Joao Guimaraes Rosa there is a constant toss up of, does the devil exist or not.  The narrator of the story is a Jagunco by the name of Rio Baldo who goes through telling of his life and trials.  The main character in this book however is the Devil.  He is never seen directly by Riobaldo or anyone else mentioned in the book, but he is everywhere and in everything, constantly tormenting our narrator throughout his whole life.  Everybody in their own way believes in the Devil for the simple fact that no one in the entire book would utter the words “The Devil”, they refer to him as “he who should not be named”, and “the so-and-so”. Riobaldo thinks about all his actions and whether or not if the devil has a hand in all of his motions through life.

The Devil is an invention of humans who needed a way to explain bad luck and justify the negative side of living life.  As Riobaldo comes upon challenges set in front of him he assumes it’s a challenge designed by the Devil to test him.  When he does something bad or evil he justifies his actions by saying that it was the Devil acting through him, which leans towards the idea that it’s just a safety net for the human condition to keep him sane through the trials that he will pass through in life.  He even calls on the Devil for help, he tries to make a pact with the Devil at midnight waiting on a crossroads in hopes that he would amount to power and knowledge.  Nothing strange happens that night when he tries to make contact which seems to mean that we all have the devil already within us and is controlling everything.

Words are passed around between the Jagunco bands about another Jagunco chief had made a pact with the devil.  This jagunco had suddenly become the head of a large group of bandits which gave off the appearance that the deal had in fact worked in his favor by giving him power.  There’s a point in the book where Riobaldo’s bandits come into combat with the other group of Jaguncos lead by the pact making leader.  This was like a beautiful painting crafted by the Devil, to pin these two leaders against each other with hundreds of men under their control, and to lead them into battle against each other.  The Devil is within all of us, and he leads us along with a leash that we can’t feel or locate by any means, he makes it seem like we have free will and that we make all the decisions in our life but in fact the Devil is pulling the strings.  The Devil had already chosen a winner in the battle between the two groups, he chose the players and chose when to play them and how to play them.

Throughout the entire story Riobaldo is explaining his life story to a silent stranger who we learn almost nothing about.  This stranger could be the Devil listening to a story that he actually wrote and already knew.  He simply was coming around to collect his side of the pact that Riobaldo had made long ago at the crossroads.  Riobaldos soul was never his after that night, he was within the pocket of the Devil and was going through the motions that the Devil laid out before him.  Riobaldo needed to tell his whole story to reflect on his life and the choices to make, sometimes we just need someone to listen to our thoughts to help us understand ourselves more clearly.  After years of leading and having to make all the decisions by himself he needed one more chance to ask for help from a stranger.

The Devil is within all of us moving us along is his stream of life where it opens to the ocean which slowly drains into the Devils mouth.  He controls you, me, our hands, our feet, and he makes the decisions, not you or me.  When an old man reflects back on his past he thinks not of what he bought or sold, but of what he did with his time, for truthfully, the Devil does not exist.

Luke Piedad


The Devil To Pay in The Backlands

The Part about Life:

“Living is a dangerous business.”-Riobaldo.  A thought that keeps on ringing in my mind over the course of this incredible novel.  Is it because Riobaldo keeps repeating this over or is it indeed a true statement?  The thought seems obvious, life is a dangerous business; but how so?  Where are the all the evidence and proof that Riobaldo had gathered to back up his statement that life is dangerous business?  What is the “business” part about?   It was my goal right from the beginning to understand truly why life is such a dangerous business in Riobaldo’s view.  As I read on, I see the Devil’s image always presents on this man’s mind; and that right from the start, as a child, Riobaldo’s perception of the devil has always haunted him and follow him into adulthood.  Throughout the novel, the more I got to know Riobaldo, the more I became connected with him through the uncertainty about the existence of the Devil himself.  What is all of this “pact” with the devil about?  Why does it generates so much thought and hatred toward Hermogenes from Riobaldo? From my perspective, I can see through the curtain of Riobaldo’s mind; from the beginning, it has never been all about avenging the death of Joca Ramiro alone, but it really is also about the jealousy of the “pact” that Hermogenes has made with the Devil that brings him so much luck and fortunes.  It is easy to see the envious thoughts within Riobaldo as he always talk about “putting a bullet” into Hermogenes head but never really show any violent thoughts for Ricardao.  But the event that drove Riobaldo to push his life into the “dangerous business” is when he seeks out the Devil in that windy evening, screaming out his name fearlessly under the dark curtain of the night.  After that moment, in Riobaldo’s and my mind, as a reader, a pact has been made; Riobaldo went from being a ordinary jagunco, who has no self-belief, to a powerful chief that take on the challenge of conquering the “tiger of the sertao”.  I have now understand why life is such a dangerous business; it was the “pact” with Diablo that is the dangerous aspect of life in Riobaldo’s view.  Riobaldo, in hope of ending his uncertainty about his own belief in the existence of the Devil, has taken the risky step to approach the devil and made a pact.  Little did he know that the pact he made caused him to question himself even more.

The Part about Reinaldo/Diadorim/ Deodorina:

This is the part of the novel that torn me the most to discuss about.  “Diadorim’s body was that of a woman, a perfect young woman.” (page 485) A tragic love story.  No words can describe the feeling I have as the image of the beautiful girl named Diadorim, who has been in love with Riobaldo from the very start, lay lifelessly on the table.  I cannot say that I was surprise to find out that Diadorim was a girl, because it was quite obvious the way Riobaldo described Diadorim throughout the novel.  How Riobaldo said that she would became jealous and shown hatred toward Otacilia when Riobaldo look at her, the way Riobaldo portrayed her body physically through her eyes, her lips, her smell, her slim waist; everything just points out to me that there is something truly mysterious about this character named Diadorim.  But what really set me off where the un-blossom love between Riobaldo and Diadorim.  They were always there with each other, so close but yet so far.  Sometimes, as I read their conversation, or even Riobaldo’s thoughts about Diadorim, I feel as though they were just seconds away from embracement and then confess to each other their true feelings, feelings that are being block by the barriers and obstacles of their own lives.  What kept them apart was Riobaldo’s guilt about having feeling for a man, being the great chief that he is and Diadorim’s objective to avenge the death of her father.  It was clear to see that the love Riobaldo had for Diadorim is quite special, we can make an argument that it might yet be greater than the love he has for Otacilia.   But my question to Diadorim is why did she kept the secret from Riobaldo?  She had already told him her real name.  Considering how strong the feeling Riobaldo had for her, the only thing she needed to do was to tell him.   But sadly, in that society, that vast land, the “Grande Sertao”, life is such a risky and dangerous business that no one can take any chances.  It was extremely painful to witness the scenario that unfolded after the death of Diadorim, it was too late for Riobaldo to confess his love when he found out how much Diadorim loved him.  And finally, as he kissed the lifeless lips of Deodorina, the wall that had separated them for so long came tumbling down, for he, Riobaldo realized at last that it might had been the only true affection that he had receive from someone who had loved him all his life.  How life is full of surprises.

Tri Phan

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands Analysis 

Before reading The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, I did not realize how hard it is to translate a book from one diverse language to another, without losing the essence of the story. It made me have a greater appreciation towards the book. Half way through the assigned reading I had to go back and start from the beginning just to comprehend what was really going on. The book is about an old man who is retired and is telling his story to an unknown listener. The thing with reading this book is that everything has a purpose and there is a reason for why the author put it in the novel in the first place. The Portuguese title of the book before being translated to “The Devil to pay in the Backlands” is Grande Sertao: Veredas. Grande Sertao is translated to “big space”, and Veredas is translated to “things that are underneath the path”. I thought this was very interested because through the novel, I noticed that things are not always so clear-cut, and there is more to it than what is on the surface.

I had to pay very close attention to details, like names. The main character’s name is Riobaldo. If you dissect it, the meaning of his name is “dried up river”. “Rio” means river, and “baldo” mean dried up. There is so much happening in this novel that you do not see on the surface. This is true even in the plot, there is a section in the beginning of the book, where the jaguncos are crossing a dessert and they think they see a monkey, so they kill it and eat it, only after they eat and begin getting sick is when they realize that the monkey was not a monkey but a human.

Throughout the entire book there is an obvious obsession with the devil. In the novel, somehow the devil is always referred to when something is not right. I believe that people in the real world use the devil and God as an excuse for why they choose to do what they do. For example when someone makes a poor decision, and it results in a terrible consequence, instead of taking responsibility for what they did, it is easier to just put the blame on somebody else; in this case, the devil. There is a part in the text where Riobaldo actually has a moment of solitude where he offers his soul to the devil. The rest of the story Riobaldo has to deal with an internal conflict on whether the devil actually heard him. He would continue to go back and forth unsure of what really happened. Right after he made his deal with the devil, whether if it was just a fragment of his imagination or he did in fact sell his soul, he gained a little confidence. Riobaldo seemed and acted as if he was almost invincible, with his “new power”. That goes to show how powerful the mind is. Riobaldo is never completely certain, which makes him unreliable.

I also could not help but notice that the characters in this book were constantly crossing something that they were not supposed too. Like the dessert, nothing good came from that. They ended up have to retreat and unfortunately took part in cannibalism. I felt that the author of this book really tried to establish that nothing is for certain, nobody knows if the devil exists, or if there is a god. So when a situation comes up where we feel uncertain of it, we tend to blame it on the devil. For example going to the very first page and paragraph, there was a deformed calf, which was killed because it was not something that they were used too. It was different and they could not explain why the calf had a man and dog face features. So sense it belonged in the category of unknown they automatically just assumed that it was the devil or that it was associated with the devil, and the men killed it.

Overall the story was very interesting, and I look forward to rereading it again. It is one of those books that as you reread certain parts you begin catching details that you might not have caught the first time reading it, like the relationship between Diadorim and Riobaldo. Only until the death of Diadorim does their relationship make sense. Diadorim was a female, and that explains everything. Why Diadorim was so jealous of Otacilia. And why Diadorim was always to clean and tidy. Also explains why he would always choose to bath early in the morning before anybody else.

Karla Anguiano