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The Switchman

He vanishes because he has fulfilled his role as the stranger’s subconscious by not only asking the Camusian question “Why? 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 destination.

The switchman tells the stranger that the inn is filled with people who have made that very same assumption, and who may one day actually get there. In addition, it is not really clear that the system does operate in the way the switchman claims: Modern Language Association http: 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.

His best-known and most anthologized tale, “The Switchman” exemplifies his taste for humor, satire, fantasy, and philosophical themes. The stranger wants to know if a train going to T.

As the stranger is very interested in this, the switchman once again encourages the stranger to try guardxgujas luck, but warns him not to talk to fellow passengers, who may be spies, and to watch out for mirages that the railroad company generates.

In areas where no rails exist, passengers simply wait for the unavoidable wreck.

El guardagujas/ The Switchman

Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia. The stranger still wishes to travel on zrreola train to T. But upon inquiring again where the stranger wants to go, the switchman receives the answer X instead of T.

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. Camus writes that neither humans alone nor the world by itself is absurd. Guardaguas their view, their elaborate system, which includes accommodations for years-long trips and even for deaths, is very good.


The switchman then tells a story of certain train rides when the trains arrived at impossible locations. In his piece, Arreola focuses on reality as well. As demonstrated by its numerous interpretations, “The Switchman” is fraught with guardagujaz. Why, then, does the switchman vanish at this moment?

Print this article Print all entries for this topic Cite this article. The Switchman Original title: The stranger is warned that if he is lucky enough to board any train, he must also be vigilant about his point of departure. The image immediately thereafter of the tiny red lantern swinging back and forth before the onrushing train conveys the story’s principal theme: Retrieved April 12, 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.

Retrieved from ” https: 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. The stranger is also told it should make no difference to him whether or not he reaches T, that once he is on the train his life “will indeed take on some direction. He has not ever traveled on a train and does not plan on doing so. Briefly summarized, “The Switchman” portrays a ardeola burdened with a heavy suitcase who arrives at a deserted station at the exact time his train is supposed to leave.

The stranger is very confused; he has no plans to stay. Cite this article Pick a style below, arreoal copy the text for your bibliography. Mexican literature short stories. The “switchman” tells the stranger that the country is famous for its railroad system; though many timetables and tickets have been produced, the trains do not follow them well.

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

This page was last edited on 8 Septemberat 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 adreola of reality, and as an existentialist view of life with Mexican modifications.


The railroad tracks melting away in the distance represent the unknown future, while the elaborate network of uncompleted railroads evokes people’s vain efforts to put into effect rational schemes.

It was republished ten years later along with other published works by Arreola at that time in the collection El Confabulario total. The switchman turns to tell the stranger that he is lucky. Then, copy and paste the text guardgujas your bibliography or works cited list. Suddenly, a train approaches and the switchman begins to signal it.

El guardagujas/ The Switchman : Juan Jose Arreola :

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 official truth and relies on the gullibility of the audience.

The Switchman On one level the story operates as a satire on the Mexican transportation system, while on another the railroad is an analogy for the hopeless absurdity of the human condition.

The horrified stranger, who keeps insisting that he must arrive at destination T the next day, is therefore advised to rent a room in a nearby inn, an ash-colored building resembling a jail where would-be travelers are lodged. There are clearly rails laid down for a train, but nothing to indicate that a train does indeed pass through this particular station.

Retrieved December 31, from Encyclopedia. As the man speculates about guardagijas his train might be, he feels a touch on his shoulder and turns to see a small old man dressed like a railroader and carrying a lantern.

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.