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The stranger still wishes to travel on his train to T. The railroad management was so pleased that they decided to suspend any official bridge building and instead encourage the stripping and recreation of future trains. The image immediately thereafter of the tiny red lantern swinging back and forth before the onrushing train conveys the story’s principal theme: He does not understand why the stranger insists on going to T.

He asks the stranger for the name of the station he wants to go to and the stranger says it is “X. But it soon becomes apparent from the information provided him by his interlocutor that the uncertain journey he is about to undertake is a metaphor of the absurd human condition described by Camus. The latter comes closest to the most convincing interpretation, namely, that Arreola has based his tale on Albert Camus ‘s philosophy of the absurd as set forth in The Myth of Sisyphus, a collection of essays Camus published in When the stranger asks the switchman how he knows all of this, the switchman replies that he is a retired switchman who visits train stations to reminisce about old times.

Mexican literature short stories. Arreola’s ingenious tale exudes a very Mexican flavor, but above all else it is a universal statement on the existential human’s precarious place in the world.

Print this article Rareola all entries for this topic Cite this article. The switchman’s anecdote about the founding of the village F, arreoal occurred when a train accident stranded a group of passengers—now happy settlers—in a remote region, illustrates the element of chance in human existence. In areas where no rails exist, passengers simply wait for the unavoidable wreck. The stranger is also told it should make no difference to him whether or not he reaches T, that eo he is on the train his life “will indeed take on some direction.

A stranger carrying a large suitcase runs guardagujaas a train station, and manages to arrive exactly at the time that his arreooa bound for a town identified only as T. Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia. As he gazes at the tracks that seem to melt away in the distance, an old man the switchman carrying a tiny red lantern appears from out of nowhere and proceeds to inform the stranger of the hazards of train travel in this country.


In one case, where the train reached an abyss with no bridge, the passengers happily broke down and rebuilt the train on the other side. The residents accept this system, but hope for a change in the system.

Retrieved from ” https: Camus writes that neither humans alone nor the world by itself is absurd. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The details of the story do not really support his claim that he is indeed an official switchman, so it may be that his tales represent a system that presents absurdity as an guardaguas truth and relies on the gullibility of the audience.

El guardagujas/ The Switchman

And the conductors’ pride in never failing to deposit their deceased passengers on the station platforms as prescribed by their tickets suggests that the only certain human destination is death, a fundamental absurdist concept. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Guardagkjas Read Edit View history.

Where there is only one rail instead of two, the trains zip along and allow the first class passengers the side of the train riding on the rail. In some cases, new towns, like the town of F.

Retrieved December 31, from Encyclopedia. Rather, the absurd arises from the clash between reasoning humans striving for order and the silent, unreasonable world offering no response to their persistent demands. As demonstrated by its numerous interpretations, “The Switchman” is fraught with ambiguity.

The switchman says he cannot promise that he can get the stranger a train to T. The switchman turns to tell the stranger that he is lucky.

The railroad company occasionally creates false train stations in remote locations to abandon people when the trains become too crowded. There are clearly rails laid down for a train, but nothing to indicate that a train does indeed pass through this particular station.

Instead, they resembled the work of writers like Franz Kafka and Albert Camus and their examination of the human condition. Guardagujaas, a train approaches and the switchman begins to signal it.

The Switchman (El Guardagujas) by Juan José Arreola, |

In addition, it is not really clear that the system does operate in the way the switchman claims: The stranger is argeola confused; he has no plans to stay. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Like most of Arreola’s stories, The Switchman’ can be interpreted in a variety of ways—as an allegory of the pitfalls of the Mexican train system, an existential horror story of life’s absurdities and human limitation, and the author’s desire to laugh in spite of the insanities of the world and human interaction.


Briefly summarized, “The Switchman” portrays a stranger burdened with a heavy suitcase who arrives at a deserted station at the exact time his train is supposed to leave. Modern Language Association http: In the final lines of Arreola’s story the assertion of the stranger now referred to as the traveler that he is going to X rather than T indicates that he has become an absurd man ready to set out for an unknown arreolz.

Another episode involves a trainload of energetic passengers who became heroes absurd heroes in Camusian terms when they disassembled their train, carried it across a bridgeless chasm, and reassembled it on the other side in order to complete their journey. The Switchman Original title: But upon inquiring again where the stranger wants to go, the switchman receives the answer X instead of T.

El guardagujas/ The Switchman : Juan Jose Arreola :

Awareness of the absurd human condition can come at any moment, but it is most likely to happen when, suddenly confronted by the meaninglessness of hectic daily routine, he or she asks the question “Why? It has been seen as a satire on Mexico’s railroad service and the Mexican character, as a lesson taught by the instincts to a human soul about to be born, as a modern allegory of Christianity, as a complex political satire, as a surrealistic fantasy on the illusive nature of reality, and as an existentialist view of life with Mexican modifications.

He feels that those with authority create absurd laws and conditions in their domain, and their subjects often willingly accept these absurdities, much like ordinary train passengers. Though some consider him to be a pioneer in the field on non-realistic literature, critics of him felt that social conditions in Mexico demanded a more realistic examination of the inequalities.

Why, then, does the switchman vanish at this moment?

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