Essay title: Violence, the Order Created by Man, and the Chaos of the Universe in the Dead Man
A story that caught my attention in particular was that of â€œThe Dead Man.â€ On the surface a simpler story; violent, fast-paced, and in a typical Borges fashion, a surprise ending where we realize the connection between the title and the protagonistâ€™s fate is revealed. However, upon a second or third reading, it becomes evident that Borgeâ€™s famed puzzles and subtle commentary are indeed at work here. Amongst other things, â€œThe Dead Manâ€ is a story of political ambition, and personal pride which ends up being the downfall of our protagonist.
Benjamin Otalora, the Argentinean Buenos Aires hoodlum turned Uruguayan gaucho, is ambitious and most of all brave. However, he is also reckless and lacks any kind of discretion whatsoever. His physical daring is un-complimented by any higher meaning or purpose. He doesnâ€™t save Azevedo Bandeira, the mobster boss, in the knife fight because of any morals or virtues he believes in, but simply because he was drawn â€œto the sheer taste of danger.
â€ Otaloraâ€™s braveness is also completely selfish. It is a raw, violent, braveness that ultimately blinds him to the reality to which he becomes self-aware in the last moments of his life; he is a man who is completely oblivious to forces outside himself. Otaloraâ€™s uncontrolled ambition and unchecked bravery disallows him the ability to calmly make calculations, to make the most intelligent choices, to think things through; all essentials in leadership and especially in ultimately coordinating a power grab from someone the likes of Azevedo.Otalora is the manifestation of the Order Created by Man, or rather the illusion of the Order Created by Man. Throughout the story, Otalora is completely unaware of the trap that is being slowly set for him, and is convinced that he is in complete control. While the reader knows, or at least believes, that he himself is nowhere as uninformed, brash, and reckless as our protagonist, nevertheless Borges is trying to say that we shouldnâ€™t completely surrender ourselves to the egocentric idea that we are in total control of ourselves and the world around us. There is something deeper, more sinister, subtle, yet ultimately controlling and unavoidable; that is the Chaos of the Universe.
The meaning of the term itself is debatable; does the Chaos of the Universe imply that fate, the future, is unreadable, random, meaningless, and uncontrolled? Of course to a certain degree that is true. But by using this term, the point Iâ€™m trying to get across is that there is order, there is to a certain degree, someone, something controlling us at all times. We are always part of a bigger picture, a bigger truth.In the story, the Chaos of the Universe is represented by the outside forces of Avazedo Bandeira. It is chaos, and therefore violent; Otalora only receives the solace, the realization that he was doomed from the start, in the final moments of his life. However as readers we can see clues of this set-up, the cogs in the machinery of the universe if you will, that Otalora has failed to recognize and which leads to his demise. This version of the story suggests to us that Avazedoâ€™s plot to kill the boy existed from the very start.
The initial drunken brawl which Otalora involved himself in, could very well have been a deception of sorts. It is curious that the man, who was in a heated fight with Avazedo, is in the next moment, seated next to Bandeira, and joins in the menâ€™s party with no sense.