“La Noche Boca Arriba” by Julio Cortazar: Critical Summary

This paper presents an analytical summary of the story “La Noche Boca Arriba” by Julio Cortazar. The summary explores the aim of the author in relation to the plot, themes, characters and stylistic devices. Each of the aspects is analyzed and an explanation given as to how it helps achieve the intention of the author.

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Aim of the Story

The author uses a man’s motorcycle accident, hospitalization, and a series of his dreams to portray how dreams parallel reality. He uses the subconscious mind of the victim to signify actual reality. By doing so, the author successfully draws a close relationship between real life and a person’s dreams.

Plot Significance

The story begins when a male character picks his bike at around 8:50 am only to get involved in an accident a few minutes later. At this stage, the author intentionally introduces aspects of reality that he later uses to dictate the characters dream. As he rides on his back, he comes across a swamp that later characterizes his dreams. After the accident he is taken to the hospital where he encounters disturbing smells. Numerous smells characterize his dreams as well. This aspect of the plot is used by the author to depict how reality controls dreams. In general terms, dreams are influenced by daily occurrences and, certainly, explain why certain things take place in reality. Something that may appear simple in nature may contain in-depth meaning that can only be revealed in a dream.

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In his unconscious state in the operation room, the character experiences a strange dream that seems to paint a picture of what is going on in his life. The author uses this aspect of the plot to achieve his objective and pass a hidden message to the audience. In a particular instance of the dream, the character flees from Aztecs since they were involved in a manhunt. This particular aspect parallels the dangerous events in the life of the main character. Later in the dream the author is frightened by the sound similar to an animal escaping from danger. This feature of the dream further describes his struggle in the reality to fight for his life in the operation room. The struggle is further portrayed by the character trying to reach the center of the jungle while avoiding the masses. The events that follow, regarding his waking up and almost falling off the bed, as well as the special care from both the nurse and the doctor, intertwine with the danger paralleled in the dream.

Further alterations occur between reality and dreams. Each event from reality is somehow presented in the dream, thus demonstrating the struggle for his life. He is later taken to the temple where he finds himself tied with ropes. Towards the end, the main character finds himself being sacrificed in the dream, which parallels his inability to wake up in the hospital bed.

Thematic Content

The author employs three major themes to achieve his intention. The themes of religion, tradition, and death are used to advance the author’s message to the audience. In the dream, the author uses religious activities such as prayer and religious symbols such as the temple, the priest and the Most High, “dispenser of Moteca goods,” to accomplish his intention. Inability to make a comprehensive prayer in the dream, for example, is used to exhibit the danger at hand and hence portray the actual danger in reality. The traditional sacrifices being made at the temple are used to parallel operation and death in the hospital bed. Both the temple and the forest are used to signify the hospital. Events taking place in the two parallel those taking place in the hospital. The smell of death and the bloody sacrifice are used to show the ultimate end and climax of the story. The author uses the theme of death in a dream to signify actual death in the hospital; it is symbolized by the character’s inability to wake up.

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Significance of Stylistic Devices

The author used two major stylistic tools to achieve his intention: flashbacks/dreams and imagery.

Flashbacks and Dreams

Dreams present a story within the main story. This other story, dream, is used by the author to construct events taking place in the real life of the character. The author would have found out difficult to narrate the events taking place in the life of the character while asleep had he not used dreams. The story in the dream is, thus, employed to meet his main intention by exhibiting how dreams describe reality. Flashback, on the other hand, is used to link activities in the two stories and create continuity. Flashbacks were also employed by the author to help link and complete events, hence achieve the main intention by maintaining the attention of the audience.

Imagery and Symbolism

Many symbols and images have been used by the author to achieve his intention. The story is told with symbols such as darkness, which symbolizes danger, and the moon, which symbolizes supernatural powers. The author also constructs images such as the war of flowers, which symbolizes the struggle of the character to retain his life. Symbols and images have been used mainly in the dream story to forecast events in the actual life of the character.

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