In this short story, the uses of symbolism is used throughout the story in a variety of ways, including foreshadowing the ending. The most used piece of symbolism is the story, is the usage of the color black. The color is in many ways associated with the element of death. Some examples of this includes the black handle on the long blade, Pepe’s black hair, the black jerky he chews on and last but not least his fathers black coat. With all these things combined, he is literally welcoming death in his future with the darkness. According to Harold Bloom “The climatic final portrait is thick with darkness and even as a new morning breaks the sky, the eagle, which has been present from the start, is now replaced by predatory black vultures.” (91). Another piece of symbolism used in the story is the use of direction.
Direction could be used to represent a good or bad direction, which in Pepe’s case represents bad direction. Pepe is shown watching the sunset in the west, West is a bad direction which helps show Pepe’s bleak future. Other pieces of symbolism include the use of nature such as the use of water. In the story, Pepe’s water bag is hung over the horse’s shoulder which ended up leaking. It’s symbolic because it symbolizes that Pepe’s life is slowly leaking away from him. Another piece of symbolism is when Pepe loses his tools that define his humanity, he is left with no choice but to crawl on the ground like an animal, wriggling like a snake and “worming” his way along. It’s symbolic because it represents the way his dad died ten years earlier when he was bitten and killed by a rattlesnake. More pieces of symbolism can be found when Pepe comes across the trees of the mountainside. The top of the trees appear as wind bitten and pretty much dead, symbolizing that the further up he goes, the closer he is to his inevitable death. The majority of the symbolism used throughout the story each tell a tale of a bleak future with the outcome more than likely resulting in death and Pepe’s demise due to his inability to cope with the treacherous conditions of the wilderness.
Another interesting thing about this short story are the number of themes used in it. One of the main themes to this story includes the focus on Growth and development, in a sense that Pepe Torres is finally trying to become a man by doing a “man’s thing”. Pepe does not understand what it means to be man and therefore is looked at as a boy that shouldn’t be doing things requiring the abilities and the mental attitude of a man. What the myth describes is the natural miracle of entering manhood. When serenity of childhood is lost, there is pain and misery, but there is nonetheless a sense of gain and heroism which are more interesting and dramatic.” (Bloom, 85). At the beginning of the story, nineteen year old Pepe is shown as a lazy, cocky boy who is continuously being called a number of names by his mother. At some point in the story, Pepe is finally given a man’s job by going off and buying medicine. Upon doing this, Mama Torres comes to a realization, that Pepe is finally growing into a man. Another theme commonly used in this short story is the idea of man versus nature. When Pepe flees to the wilderness to escape from the consequences of his crime, he inevitably destroys his humanity without realizing it. One example would be when he loses his tools and the ability to speak, he is then reduced to nothing more than an animal in the world of nature’s wilderness. He is sadly reduced to digging for water and struggling to find shelter from the hot sun. Another point regarding this theme is the fact that when he goes to buy the medicine and take’s on a man’s job, he understands that becoming a man is optional but once he enters the wilderness, he has no choice but to become a man because it tests not only his maturity but also his place in the natural world.
This story is told in a third person point of view meaning that the narrator is “not a know all, concerning the characters in the story.” Whenever the narrator is limited with his sources, the reader is not told a character’s thoughts or feelings during the course of the story. Rather, the reader must determine what a character is thinking or feeling from what the character does or says whenever their in a situation. One exception from this, was when the narrator stepped into Mama Torres’s mind to reveal her true feelings about Pepe which included the thought- “Mama thought [Pepe] was fine and brave, but she never told him so.” (3). One of the main reasons this story is told in that perspective is because it puts the reader in the shoes of Pepe and makes one feel his emotions as well. One such example of this technique is when Pepe dressed up in his fathers hat and green silk handkerchief, the majority of the readers get the feeling that Pepe is proud and happy and is excited about fetching the medicine and salt.