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Magical Realism in Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo

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Magical realism this artistic creation style produced under the big explosion of literature in Latin America in the 19th century, due to the economic oppression of the new imperialism. It is a style of fiction and shows a realistic view of the real world but adding some unreal and magical elements. Most of the authors use magical realism to reveal the issue of society in the real world. One of Juan Rulfo’s classic works, “Pedro Paramo” is a very successful magical realism book. The story mainly talks about one is the main character who named Juan Preciado to go to Comala to find his father — Pedro Paramo, and through the gossips of the other ghosts, Juan finds out that his father is a cruel and bad landlord. In this book, Ruflo organizes the World Building by the magical realism; the whole novel presents a world that has no boundary between living and death, and the time is no longer important. Through this kind of setting, Ruflo points out some social issue in the book, which likes landlordism and abuse of using power.

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The major trait of magical realism in this book is timelessness, the plot sequence is not following the orders of the time and the images of Paramo is not directly use the word to express. In the book, the narration jumps from one character to another and changing one place to another, there has no time flow in this book. It seems like the plots lose the connection with each other, but the image of main character-Pedro Paramo is gradually clear through a “tangled” structure and a fragmented narrative. In this way of writing style, the readers find out that Pedro as a cruel, mean and selfish landlord. In the story, Paramo tricks Juan’s mother to marry him in order to become the richest man in Comala, and he gains power too. Pedro can do whatever he wants. He robs the property of the others, and calls out that “what law, Fulgor? From now on, we are the law”. From here, the reader can see that Paramo ignores the law and he even think that he is the person that can make the law. And from the author’s description, Paramo is a very selfish guy, he only cares about his own benefit, and not think about others. In Paramo’s mind, he thinks that he gains the power so he can seize everything as he wants. Moreover, in the middle of the story, Paramo’s father was inexplicably shot in the wedding of him and Susana, Paramo has no idea who is the murder and what direction of the gunshot came from, so he decides to kill everyone who participate in the wedding. From here, Ruflo emphasizes the Paramo’s brutal personality, he would rather kill all the people than let himself get hurt at all. Paramo always puts his own interests and safety first, and the lives of others are worthless in his eyes. Ruflo has a great skill to establish a destine character in order to show the cruel and badness of the landlord at that time of period. Paramo is a ghost in the novel but a real person in real life in Latin America, countless greedy, cruel and vicious feudal landowners like Paramo are the main cause of poverty and backwardness in the vast rural areas of Mexico. In addition, the structure of the story is disorderliness which reflects the in the real world the people’s lives were jumble under the oppression of powerful figures. Therefore, Ruflo uses magical realism to create a character just like Paramo to spotlight the social issue of landlordism.

Furthermore, Ruflo also uses magical realism to highlight the issue of abusing of power in society. Base on the traditional culture that originated in Latin America, the people believe in spirits and the supernatural, which is why Ruflo Creates a world where living people can communicate freely with the dead. In this setting, death is not the end, if dead people do not get forgiven from God, they will never get relief, then become the ghost wander in the earth. At this point the Father plays an important role in here, he has the right to decide who can go to heaven. In the story, Father Renteria is the only person that can forgive the soul of others for God, but he is a greedy and injustice, Father. For instance, on page 18 to 19, the one of Pedro’s son Miguel died of some accident, Father Renteria refuse to forgive the soul of Miguel for the first time. Because Miguel killed Father Renteria’s brother and even rape Renteria’s niece Ana before. But after Pedro Paramo meets Father Renteria and gives him a “gift” for the church, everything is changed. “he can afford to buy salvation… Lord, I throw myself at your feet to ask the justice or injustice that any of us may ask… For my part, I hope damn him to hell”. From this quote, the reader can know that Father Renteria thinks Miguel is desert to go down the hell, but Father still forgives him for the sake of money. In this point, Ruflo successfully creates a character that abusing his power just for self-interest. As we know, Father Renteria is respected by others and his a reputation just because he runs a church. And the money is necessary to keep the church service, if he loses the support of the rich, he will lose his reputation and social standing. That’s why Father Renteria gives forgiveness to Miguel for money. In his mind, and the church is more important than his family members. Therefore, in this way, we can tell Father Renteria is a selfish person and injustice father, who cares himself more than others. The reason that Ruflo creates this kind of character to emphasize the injustice and Corruptness of the church in the 20th Century. As we know, throughout history the church always got a lot of power, and the people really believe that the church can help them remove the iniquity. Once the church has supreme power, there will be some injustice and corruption. Therefore, magical realism helps Ruflo conveys that the social issue that exists in that time of period.

The purpose Ruflo uses the magical realism to emphasize the issue of society at that time is to get attention from the others, let more people know that inhumanity of the landlordism and corruptness of Church. The article “Magical Realism and Its European Essence” by Maryam Ebadi Asayesh and Mehmet Fikret Arargiic is mainly talking about the characteristic of magical realism and transformation and formation of magical realism in Europe. In this article, Asayesh and Arargiic mention that “Magical realism is presented between the World Wars and during the rise of modernism. After World War One, we collectively needed to create a new myth-maybe because it could help bind people together”. From this quote, Asayesh and Arargiic state out in the World war one, the magical realism can be another type of myth that brings the people together to think about the issue that exists in the world. As we know, there were too many social issues occurred in the World war one, like economy collapsed and poor living standard. Hence, it is significant to create a new myth to bind people together and let more people notice this kind of social issue. Myth is kind like a story that provides a certain value and norm in the society, just like “Adam and Eve” this myth teaches us never betray each other and stopping blame others. In the novel of “Pedro Paramo”, Ruflo also establishes a new “myth” to highlight that how the innocent people affected by the feudal imperialism and abuse of power; Donis and his sister are like another version of Adam and Eve, they both are brother and sister and they fall in love. In the novel, just because Donis and his sister fell in love with each other which is against the moral, so they cannot get Father Renteria’s forgiven. From the above analysis, we know that Father Renteria is an injustice and greedy person so we can assume that Father Renteria refuses to give forgiven to Donis and his sister because they are poor. If Donis and his sister are wealth people, Father Renteria might react in a different way. Because he can even forgive the person that killed his family member for money, so he definitely will forgive Donis and his sister if they are wealthy. From the above description, we can see that people in the town, if they do not have power and money, they will never get the forgiven from the father.

Moreover, Donis and his sister are the typical examples to show the living standard under the landlordism, Donis and his sister are ghosts who live in a room whose roof has half collapsed, and they have a very poor living standard. According to the book, when Juan stays in the house of Donis and his sister, they serve him just a cup of coffee and states that “it’s all we have. I’m sorry it’s so little. We’re so short of everything, so short…” (Ruflo 38). From this quote, the reader can really feel that they are living in a very harsh environment because of Pedro’s oppression to the farmer, they do not have any money to support their life. Ruflo uses Donis and his sister to represent the people that suffer the oppression of the landlord, and those ghosts in the town just like the homeless people in Latin America in history, they do not have any ability to fight landowner, and they even cannot get a happy life after they died, their lives are poor and sad forever. Therefore, Ruflo creates a new “myth” to help people understand the condition that people have at that time of era. People will pay more attention to these problems, and they will have a sense of self-reflection or resistance.

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In conclusion, Ruflo organizes the world building with magical realism and he uses Paramo, Father Renteria, Donis, and his sister to emphasize the social issue. Magical realism just is a technique to grabs the attention of the people, the goal is to reflect the reality and makes more people understand the social issue in the society that can truly impact the people. In another side, magic realism can consider as a kind of people’s self-consciousness, because at that time of period the Latin American people realized that they had to fight against these issues, so they use this way to express their helplessness when they were oppressed by landlordism and abuse of power.

Works Cited

  • Rulfo, Juan. Pedro Páramo. Austin :University of Texas Press, 2002. Print.
  • Asayesh, M., & Arargüҫ, M. (2017). Magical Realism and its European Essence. Journal of History Culture and Art Research, 6(2), 25-35. doi:

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