Azuela’s The Underdogs: The Literary Imagination
The literary imagination can unfold the knots of history in a way that is otherwise impossible. It is able to break through the limitations of objective description and political theory by engaging a sense of morality, of common cause and empathy for suffering that change opinion and influence action. It plays a very important part, furthermore, in a nation’s reprisal and embrace of its modern history. The literary imagination and its voice are a central pillar in the construction of national identity in the 21st century, inseparable from most form of history. Mariano Azuela’s The Underdogs, however, demonstrates that the literary imagination is capable of more than chronicling or even complicating events that mark what is considered momentous; it allows the author (and it therefore challenges the reader) to confront the true obstacles to significant social change during times of revolution and upheaval– the violence, greed, and essentially ‘human’ flaws that ossify society’s cruelties and inequalities in the shifting of ruling classes.
When considering and unpacking, as a cultural reader and historical critic, a dramatic reformation of society and its power structures, the literary imagination (the voice of authorial interpretation and account) can illustrate the complexities of human nature in the face of what amounts to be inexorable, predetermined historical events. It is positioned to confront and unpack, in Mexico’s case, for example, the bitter failures of several movements during a century of upheaval and revolution as profoundly human failures, not political or ideological shortcomings. Azuela’s novel shows that without a clear vision or an unquestioned leadership, after its victory against “Porfidian” federalist forces, the revolution descends into an unavoidable chaos, into violence and the corruption of ideals. This descent is unavoidable because of a vacuum of power, a lack of information and knowledge, and an absence of law and cooperation that is fleshed out in the novel through different characters and episodes – a vacuum created by a history of colonialism, elitism and oppression.