Death Imagery in Paz's Blanco

Monica Salazar


The idea of death is a distinctive aspect of the work of the Mexican writer and philosopher Octavio Paz. His work not only reflects Paz’s concern with the Mexican identity problem, but his personal obsession with death. While there is a consensus on the central role of the idea of death in some of Paz’s texts such as The Labyrinth of Solitude, most scholars have overlooked its overwhelming presence in some of his other works, such as his seminal poem Blanco. Along with its death imagery, Xavier Villaurrutia’s influence on this poem has also been neglected, despite the fact that Paz cited him as his most important precursor. Villaurrutia’s poetry –as well as Paz’s criticism of it— is relevant to the reading of Blanco, because it helps unravel its death images; when Villaurrutia’s influence is taken into consideration, Blanco’s use of the color white as its title, its use of the images of silencio, huesos, la nada, and tierra become clear death references. Since death is the unifying force of Paz’s oeuvre, its identification within Blanco will result in a deeper reading of this poem that can lead to a better understanding of Paz’s work. Furthermore, Blanco’s death symbols also attest to Paz’s participation in the construction of a collective view of death that helped create a much needed national identity in post-Revolution Mexico. 


Octavio Paz, Death

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Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature