La Fiesta del Chivo by Mario Vargas Llosa.

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Katherine Smith                Term II Week I

Robin Fiddian

La Fiesta del Chivo by Mario Vargas Llosa

A psychological novel

In La Fiesta del Chivo Mario Vargas Llosa presents the dictatorship of the Dominican Republic under Trujillo in its dying days. Vargas Llosa’s novel examines the corruption of a society whose dictator governs using psychological control rather than physical force. Concentrating on the affects of psychological control, Vargas Llosa uses different time frames and various viewpoints from which to view the dictatorship. The novel does not focus on fact or action but the consequences of this action and its lasting effects on the human psyche.

As the story unravels Vargas Llosa systematically removes any rational markers by which a reader can measure and judge, leaving him/her with only the psychology of the characters themselves. Within the first page of the book the reader is aware of the confusion related to naming. Urania is the first word of the book and the seeming emotional centre of the story yet her name is negated within the first ten lines; ‘felizmente nadie le llamaba así’. Added to this, Santa Domingo, where she has come to is ‘mejor dicho…Ciudad Trujillo’. In this way not only is our protagonist without name, but so is the place in which she is.

This lack of naming obviously demonstrates the gap between Trujillo’s reign of ‘Ciudad Trujillo’ and the liberation of the city, re-named ‘Santa Domingo’, but for the uninformed reader it is unclear. The confusion continues throughout the novel. Urania’s father, Agustín Cabral, is labelled ‘Cerebrito’ by Trujillo and is referred to as ‘Cerebrito’ by everyone except Urania. Trujillo has indeed taken control of the city itself by naming it after him, including all landmarks. Just as the people in Trujillo’s regime were not allowed to label or judge for themselves, instead using Trujillo’s words, under his control, the reader is affected by the style of the book and finds himself without perspective or power to name.

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Vargas Llosa introduces the reader to the story with Urania’s story-line, set in the present tense. The action is immediate; ‘está esperando…lo ve’ and the narrative simple. However, within a page Urania’s memory takes over – ‘La memoria le devuelve aquella imagen’ and the reader along with Urania is in the past with her father in ‘el Hotel Jaragua’. This first flash-back is only an introduction to Urania’s memory which will govern the majority of her story-line within the book. The second chapter pushes the reader back into the past with Trujillo, after Urania’s arrival at her father’s house. ...

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