In the essay entitled Labyrinth of Solitude, the author, Octavio Paz describes Mexicans being psychologically isolated due the decline in their culture as a result of Spanish conquest. This essay goes into explicit detail on the perspectives and beliefs of Mexicans and how history has molded the Mexican psyche and its inherent division. He describes how Mexicans often disguise themselves as something else because of the internal conflict and identity crisis they constantly encounter on a daily basis.
Consequently, Mexicans are presented as conflicted and separated from others in “Sunstone.” Paz primarily utilizes several devices in order to best represent the isolation of the Mexican people. The speaker of the poem recounts his experiences in a rather forlorn and sorrowful tone. Explicit diction of the words lonely and alone are used to further highlight this theme. The poem demonstrates an experience between a man and a woman. The man seems to not to be able to remember the woman and a significant amount of the poem is him trying to remember her. The symbolism is that the woman represents the country of Mexico and the poem shows the man’s journey in alleviating his isolation. Although the principal message of “Sunstone” might be to tell the plight of the Mexican people as well as the loss of memory of an aging mind, the Mexican psyche in itself is an essential part of how Paz crafts the poem.
Paz additionally juxtaposes the collective unconscious and the unity of Mexican people under a communal suffering the inherent loneliness of Mexicans. This is especially ironic and further demonstrates the personal conflict of Mexicans.
Psychological Isolation in “Sunstone” “Sunstone” by Octavio Paz is a poem that details a man’s experience with his loss of memory of a certain woman. While literally, this woman can be interpreted as being a former lover, metaphorically, it is likely that the woman represents the country of Mexico. The poem thus might recount the speaker’s loss of identity due to the broken Mexican psyche. In Octavio Paz’s “Sunstone,” Mexicans are represented as psychologically isolated.
Octavio Paz utilizes a contemplative but morose tone in order to elucidate the psychological isolation of the Mexican people. Paz utilizes particular stanzas to establish this tone and create a sense of loneliness among the reader. This depressive tone is best shown in the second stanza in which the speaker muses that the “happiness” of Mexicans is being continuously “pecked away by the birds” (Paz 22). Although “Sunstone” is very introspective and reflective, Paz is able to demonstrate the suffering of Mexicans due to Spanish conquest with tone. Paz employs a remorseful tone when addressing the woman, or Mexico.
Imagery is additionally employed by Paz in order to elucidate the loneliness and remoteness many Mexicans feel as a result of Spanish conquest and continuous rape of their culture, even in the contemporary period. Some horrifying imagery is utilized such as the “sirens’ wail”, “the screaming houses”, “cracked towers”, and “hurricane drones” in order to create a vivid depiction among the readers of the Spanish Civil War, but perhaps also to indicate the terrors the Aztec people experienced under the Spanish rule. The specific usage of the word “cracked” perfectly demonstrates the separation of the Mexican people from themselves. However, it is also important to consider that despite this separation, the Mexican people are united in a collective conscious, as shown throughout the poem, by their collective suffering.
When the 2 individuals make love, when they preserve their humanity, they also rescue the inheritance stole from them by the thieves of life centuries ago referring to the Spanish conquistadors that completely eradicated the Indian way of life.
This demonstrates the eternal nature of love and time as well as the fact the isolation of the Mexican can only be ameliorated by sexual union, something that Paz regarded as the highest form of union and love. Throughout the poem, not only in these stanzas, there is consistent imagery of fruit which elucidates the beauty and fertility of the woman as well as Aztec reverence for nature and its timelessness with their many Gods being in control of various parts of nature. In line 319, the speaker urges to “gather theses riches, pluck the fruit, eat of life, stretch out under the tree and drink” (Paz 319). This specific fruit refers to Eden, in which Adam and Eve were able to enjoy themselves and the fruit for a while.
However, this tree can also refer to the prickly pear cactus as it symbolizes the water goddess Chalchiuhtlicue and grows in the middle of a river. Religious imagery of “bread of life”, “wine is wine,” and “bread regains its savor” is used to demonstrate syncretic religion and the expansion of Catholicism and Christianity among the Mexican people. Paz employs imagery to highlight the loneliness that both contemporary and past Mexicans experienced. The speaker continually refers to an empty room to demonstrate the loss of memory as a result of psychological isolation. Paz employs imagery of mirrors and reflections to depict his introspection of his Mexican identity, or perhaps lack thereof. Form is also utilized by Paz with the purpose of demonstrating isolation of the Mexican people.
The poem mainly adheres to the same circular form with a multitude of commas and cataloging. Stanza 22 starts to get longer than previous stanzas perhaps to indicate the longer days of summer as shown in the Sunstone calendar. The poet uses explicit diction in order to depict his people as solitary and alone. Paz chooses his words carefully in order to create a sense of remoteness when describing the woman he cannot remember. Paz’s inability to remember the woman is explicitly stated, representing his solitary nature. Paz uses symbolism of a man, the speaker, and a woman, the country of Mexico to further explain the lack of identity many Mexicans encounter. This constant symbolism of the man and woman shows a separation between the two as they are both divided from each other and from themselves.
Throughout the poem, the speaker refers to water, which symbolizes humanity of the Mexican people. When the water breaks or pools in closed bodies, it represents the loneliness of those of Mexican descent. In conclusion, in “Sunstone” by Octavio Paz, Mexicans are represented as being psychologically isolated with several literary devices including imagery, symbolism, diction, and tone in order to show the split Mexican psyche as well as the constant introspection necessary to alleviate their internal conflict.
- Paz, Octavio, 1914-1998. Sunstone = Piedra De Sol.
- New York :New Directions Pub. Corp., 1991.