Authoritarian Discourse in García Márquez's La mala hora and Ruy Guerra's O Veneno da Madrugada

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Latin American Studies Program, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
This paper examines Bakhtin’s concept of authoritarian discourse in Gabriel García Márquez’s 1962 novel La mala hora and Ruy Guerra’s 2005 film adaptation of the work, O Veneno da Madrugada. The hostile environment, depicted by García Márquez and Guerra, is the perfect setting to apply Bakhtin’s ideas about authoritarian discourse. In his essay, “Discourse and the Novel”, Bakhtin explains that “there is a struggle constantly being waged to overcome the official line with its tendency to distance itself from the zone of contact, a struggle against various kinds and degrees of authority” (345). In this paper, I will examine the ways in which the characters in the novel and film struggle against the figures of authority in the town: the mayor (the authority figure) and Father Ángel (the priest). Bakhtin affirms that in cases of authoritarian discourse, one must completely accept or reject it. I argue that through the rather grim depiction of Ángel and the church building coupled with the townspeople’s refusal to listen to the mayor, it is clear that the protagonists do not align themselves with the authority figures. Furthermore, I explain that while the protagonists act as if they accept the authoritarian figures in public, they actually resist them in private.
Latin American literature, Gabriel García Márquez, Mikhail Bakhtin, Authoritarian discourse