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Stereotypes as Double-Edged Weapon in “Axolotl” by Cortazar Essay

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Updated: Jan 6th, 2022

Nobody in this world can influence one person and stay intact as long as each reaction, and each act implemented by one individual towards another, presupposes interaction. This concept is vividly presented in the Axolotl short story by Julio Cortazar. The work presents a double-transform between a main character of the short story and a mind of an axolotl; watching reptiles that a kept in a city aquarium, a human sees signs of some mysterious consciousness in their eyes and behaviour. Main character’s observation gradually straightens connection between his soul and mind and axolotls’ consciousnesses. One assimilates another, but this process results in emergence of two new creatures: a human being, who had communicated with axolotls and wrote a story about them and a new axolotl, born as a result of human’s and axolotls’ communication. The transformation is mutual (Cortazar).

A stereotype may be considered a kind of a double-edged weapon as well. Latin America history knows a lot of crises though it was not an exception in world history. Gabriel Garcia Marquez spoke about stereotypes that influenced world Latin Americas image in his Nobel Prize lecture:

…The Europeans of good will – and sometimes those of bad, as well – have been struck, with ever greater force, by the unearthly tidings of Latin America, that boundless realm of haunted men and historic women, whose unending obstinacy blurs into legend. We have not had a moment’s rest. (Márquez)

They had passed through the eventful period indeed. Moreover, it was rather bloody and full of deaths. Still, facts from Latin America history, enumerated by Gabriel Garcia Marquez are terrible not only for European people, but for Latin Americans as well. Still, there is a stereotype that concerns Latin American people. It is a wide-spread idea that can be found in films, anecdotes, and human minds. Standard Latin American character in films is often presented as a violent “greaser”. (Berg, 28). In his Nobel lecture Gabriel Garcia Marquez says that prosper of such stereotypes serves as a kind of isolation for nations of Latin America. The question of their identity is not simple, and stereotypes, connected with their image in eyes of other nations only make this question more complicated. Being chased by stereotypes a human may doubt his/her own self, character and nature. Development of nation’s identity is a complicated question, and in some way it resembles child’s maturing. To facilitate development of child’s personality parents should both, help him/her and simultaneously do not put pressure on his/her vulnerable mind. Still, stereotypes may play a role of such pressure that influences nation’s development. Fortunately, identity is more stable than children’s minds.

Nevertheless, a question of mutual influence of stereotypes is still open. Remembering Axolotl we may speak about results of the double-transform once again. Outer observer, the main character, leaves aquarium with memories about event he experienced. Later he uses them to write a story we read, as author hints. But the new-born axolotl is also influenced by the human being; he carries signs of human’s nature. The same situation may be observed in the case of stereotypes. How many of Latin Americans have been influenced by images of violent and aggressive men and women, representatives of their own nation? As Gabriel Garcia Marquez says, there are a lot of emigrants that leaved their home countries. “The country that could be formed of all the exiles and forced emigrants of Latin America would have a population larger than that of Norway” (Márquez).

If you ask person about Che Guevara, he/she would definitely present you an image of a revolutionary who wanted to impose communism on people of his countries. There are constant arguments on whether Che Guevara’s activities for the benefits of his nation or not. Nevertheless, the main image every person has about Che Guevara is a war man. As a rule, he is portrayed in uniform. Still, the movie The Motorcycle Diaries suggests an absolutely different story. The film is based on the diaries Ernesto Guevara that he wrote during his journeys across the Latin America. The movie is about the young man who seeks for an adventure. As a result, he decides to see different places of the Latin America. Still, he does not even ponder that his future life would be connected with revolution. “The Motorcycle Diaries was written by a young man whose future as revolutionary was unknown” (Ching, Buckley, and Lozano-Alonso 247). In other words, the movie breaks the stereotype that was imposed onto Ernesto Guevara.

All in all, it is obvious that there are many stereotypes imposed on us. We imagine a Mexican man as a cruel redneck, Che Guevara as a revolutionary with utopian ideas, etc. Such stereotypes do not allow us to reveal the essence of this or that phenomenon. The thing is that there are intelligent Mexican people, as well as uncouth Europeans. Such wrong images are harmful for all people, as long as we live in the period of globalization. Still, the stereotype is a steady image. That is why it is next to impossible to get rid of it. There is one way out. The more we know, the less we believe in nonsense. Education is a key element that may help people think objectively and critically.

Works Cited

Berg, Charles Ramírez. Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, & Resistance. Texas: University of Texas Press, 2002. Print.

Ching, Erik Kristofer, Buckley, Christina, and Lozano-Alonso, Angélica. Reframing Latin America: a Cultural Theory Reading of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century’s. Texas: University of Texas Press, 2007. Print.

Cortazar, Julio. “Axolotl”. Literature from around the world. New York: Prentice Hall, 1999. Print.

Márquez, Gabriel García. “The Solitude of Latin America”. The Official Website of the Nobel Prize. Web.

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