The story of “The Underdogs” by Mariano Azuela gave a lot to think about since it took place during the Mexican Revolution.
Azuela does a fantastic job setting up the theme of social reform in his story. The Revolution took place because of an increasingly corrupt and violent dictatorship in Mexico during the early 20th century. Azuela’s depiction of the revolutionary soldiers is on point as it demonstrates how they are fighting for social reform but at the same time their lack of ethics can be concerning.
But what exactly is he trying to show us with this story? Although Azuela’s story is considered fiction, the historical background, the genre of the piece of literature, and the portrayal of the characters to its theme show the reason why his novel was recognized worldwide as a classic story of the Mexican Revolution.
When it comes to historical context, Azuela lived quite the experience of being part of the Revolution. As a matter of fact, he served as an army doctor with Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. Because of that, he was able to see with his own eyes the reality of this conflict. The acts of violence and brutality was something that Azuela himself experienced as a traveling medic during those times. The early 20th century were dark times for Mexico because of the corrupt system of government that Porfirio Diaz had established. According to an article called “ The Mexican Revolution: November 20th, 1910”, the motives for waging the Mexican Revolution began as the government restricted the middle and lower class from economic advancement.
In the article it says “ The Mexican Revolution Started in 1910, when liberals and intellectuals began to challenge the regime of dictator Porfirio Diaz, who had been in power since 1877, a term of 34 years called El Porfiriato, violating the principles and ideals of the Mexican Constitution of 1857.” The difficulties in the social classes during the revolution are seen in Azuela’s story. It is safe to say that his experience as a medic in the revolution was ultimately what aided him in writing this story so flawlessly. There are many parts in the story where Azuela uses imagery so that the reader can create that visual representation of what is going on.
A good example in the story is when he describes the wound of Demetrio so well; “ Luis Cervantes entered. He uncovered Demetrio’s wound, examined it carefully, and shook his head. The ligaments had made a furrow in the skin. The leg badly swollen, seemed about to burst.” This is a great example of visual imagery, where Azuela would only be capable of doing this in the story if he experienced it, which he did. His time in the Revolution also influenced his way of how he depicted figures such as Pancho Villa. An article by the name “The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela” says that “ Villa and other generals in the Underdogs are presented as Robin Hoods of the Mexican people, taking from the rich and giving to the poor.” Azuela did an outstanding depiction for these iconic revolutionaries because they were fighting so that the lower and middle class can have a better economic life; a social reform with no encomienda system. With Azuela’s experiences in the Revolution, he became one of the first writers to speak out against the corruption of the government (“The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela”). He fought for his country because he wanted to see a better Mexico and writing this novel was a way for him to share his experiences to the people so that they could see the reality of the Mexican Revolution.
In selecting the genre, Azuela made this story a novel that focuses on poverty, violence, oppression, among others. It centers on. This novel can be read as a critique to a tyranny or even the reasons why a revolution can fail. The Underdogs really demonstrates what it is like to fight in a war and shows the revolution in the eyes of a revolutionist which gives a different perspective than the normal one that is usually seen in history books (“The Underdogs Background”). This different perspective can prove that most revolutionists joined the cause without a true reason to fight, but rather instinct. When it comes to the type of narrator in this story, it seems it is a third person objective point of view. Throughout the story, the narrator is only acting as an observer, describing the setting and what the characters are doing. “ Seated on a crag of the sierra in the cool of the afternoon breeze, Luis Cervantes gazed away in the distance, dreaming and killing time. (The Underdogs- part 1, XII)” The narrator is not able to know each character’s thoughts and emotions but is able to describe them.
Azuela probably opted for this type of narrator to make the narrative more neutral. This type of narrative gives an objective, unbiased point of view to the story. That being said, the narrator can say things about a certain character that the character wouldn’t necessarily agree on. Not only that but Azuela also includes dialogue in his novel to convey information. The dialogue certainly helps Azuela in giving insight to each character and supports the genre that he chose. As said before, this particular novel is fiction but with real life events. The novel is a descriptive narrative writing since Azuela uses imagery very often where the narrator gives a copious of details to certain scenes. A descriptive narrative frequently uses figurative language techniques such as similes and metaphors. This can be seen a lot throughout the story. The best example is this one: “ You ask me why I am still a rebel? Well, the revolution is like a hurricane: if you’re in it, you’re not a man…you’re a leaf, a dead leaf, blown by the wind.(The Underdogs-part 1, XVIII)” This particular quote from the novel has both a simile and a metaphor, which goes well for a descriptive narrative. This narrative and genre was a great choice by Azuela that more than likely contributed to his message and theme of social reform.
If a novel is ought to become successful, the main characters are no exception. Azuela does a fantastic job implementing fictitious characters such as Demetrio and Luis Cervantes that fit well with the main idea and the theme. Demetrio, along with Luis Cervantes, are the main characters of the novel. The story talks about a man, Demetrio Macias, who is a peasant that is devoid of ethics like many other revolutionists because of their social class. He joins the rebel forces and eventually becomes general of Pancho Villa’s army (“The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela”). Luis Cervantes, who is different from the rest of the band of rebels, is actually well-educated and well-mannered. He is also different from the rest because he is a medical student as well as a journalist. These two play important roles that support the theme and idea of social reform. Through the end of the story, Demetrio is depicted as not knowing the reason for what he is fighting for. This was actually common amongst the other uneducated rebels because of their lack of ethics. They were fighting against the corrupted system of government but without a clear goal or motive. Even though the Revolution ended Diaz’s dictatorship, it gave rise to more issues equally as bad. The character of Luis Cervantes is quite intriguing because his story is rather similar to that of the author, Mariano Azuela. Cervantes is a traveling medic who towards the end of the novel flees the country to the United States.
Azuela also left his country to emigrate to the United States, El Paso to be more specific. Their resemblance is quite fascinating that one may think that Cervantes is basically Azuela when he joined the Constitutionalist cause. This definitely helped the character feel more realistic knowing the history behind Azuela and support his theme. With these characters, the reader is able to explore not only the theme of social reform but also themes of nationalism, poverty, loyalty, and oppression (“The Underdogs Summary and Study Guide”). Poverty and oppression can be seen with the different social class people in the story. Nationalism has to do with how the rebels are fighting to reform their country and loyalty can be seen in the band of rebels that Demetrio and Luis are involved in. Symbolisms also help with the themes of the story. One in particular is that of the dog, Palomo, who is killed in the beginning. The word Palomo is Spanish for dove which symbolizes peace. Fighting the Revolution means they are trying to reform the country so that it becomes a better place for everyone, ultimately achieving peace within the land. Demetrio’s name is also a symbolism of the Greek goddess of harvest and agriculture Demeter. This makes sense because he is a peasant who probably worked on the fields before joining the rebels. The characters and symbols were a superb fit to the main idea which contributed to Azuela’s novel.
Overall, Azuela’s influence in creating The Underdogs novel was due to his Revolution experience. The historical background in the story was well implemented because Azuela lived it, which is why he was able to make the story realistic to that of the Mexican Revolution. His style of writing, narrative, and usage of dialogue aided him in providing a story that best reflects the time of Mexico in the early 20th century. Not only that but also the characters were so well written that it appeared to be realistic despite it being a fiction. It is a great work of literature that Azuela created for the purpose of helping people understand the reality of wars which always resorts to violence and brutality.
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