THE NIGHT FACE UP
"The Night Face Up" is a short story embedded with complexities, written by Julio Cortazar. This story reveals a mysterious adventure which takes place in both reality and in the mind of the protagonist. The story takes place in the both the present reality of the protagonist and also in his unconscious thoughts. The unexpected trip starts when the protagonist goes through a minor motorcycle accident, and is immediately taken to a hospital for medical attention. During the time that he is admitted in the hospital, he is kept in a ward with other patients. Here he starts dreaming of a time that is completely different from the present. The smell of the hospital and the medical treatment that he is given makes him very uncomfortable, and he suffers from hospital phobia. In the concluding paragraph, Cortazar does not clarify how the story is exactly supposed to be analyzed, since it is fiction, but from several interpretations it is derived that the protagonist dies from a very high fever while having a very dreadful nightmare in which he sees himself being slaughtered by savages. In this short story Cortazar uses several different techniques that are very effective in revealing important aspects of the story. The central conflict of the text exists between the concept of a modern, civilized world and a violent, savage world. The two different settings in the story tell us a lot about how differently the author sees both worlds in terms of human behaviour and physical environment.
Cortazar uses the technique of contrasting images to create a unique sense in his story, which ultimately helps to communicate the central conflict taking place in the story. "The Night Face Up" has two different settings. The first setting is a modern and civilized world. Cortazar illustrates the image of this environment when he writes about streets made for vehicles, traffic lights, present concrete structures (buildings), stores, electrical machines, clocks, and other modern inventions. By providing such details it is understood that the setting of the story is of a very recent world, and that this environment is the reality of the protagonist. Everything seems in place and in order. Cortazar further describes the wellness of the civilization when the protagonist of the story goes through the accident. He writes, "The guard shook his hand and wished him luck...meanwhile they were pushing him on a wheeled stretcher towards a pavilion further back, rolling along under trees full of birds"(Cortazar 31). It portrays the idea, that the people, including the guard are very courteous are caring. They are there to help people in need, as they helped the protagonist get to the hospital for medical attention. Through this technique of contrasting images of the setting of the story, Cortazar successfully creates a generic idea among the minds of the readers, of how one should expect to be treated in a modern and civilized world.
The main idea of the story relies evenly on the other setting of the story, which depicts a savage, violent and uncivilized world. During the dream sequence, the protagonist goes through a very dreadful situation where he finds himself as a member of the Motecas tribe which is being hunted and slaughtered by the Aztec tribe. Cortazar writes, "He realized that he was running in pitch darkness...his feet sank into a bed of leaves and mud...the hand that had unconsciously gripped the haft of the dagger climbed like a fen scorpion up to his neck...at the same time he felt his ankles sinking deeper into the mud"(Cortazar 84). The protagonist attempts to run from the 'hunters', to save him self from being slaughtered. He is in a rough location, where he is tripping and falling, and making his way through the marshes and pointed barks, to save himself from being caught. By showing this contrast between the two settings of the story, Cortazar has made determined that the modern world is very civilized and a safe place to live in, where as the 'dream' world of savages is very unsafe and violent towards humanity and has no qualities of being a civilized nation.
In analyzing the central argument between both a modern, and savage world in Cortazar's "The Night Face Up", it is concluded that a modern world teaches people to be helpful and giving towards living creatures that are in need. A modern world transforms a society to live in accordance to the rules and regulations of humanity, and to keep peace in the surroundings. It also reflects the idea of being fair towards others, and treating everyone the way they deserve to be treated. Where as a savage world is a world of violence where 'might has the right'. There are no rules and regulations, and only the people in power take advantage of the people who are weak, and make them suffer. Julio Cortazar has been very successful in relating the two worlds described in the story, and is a tale that people can relate to, and seek lessons from. Even today people in some parts of the world carry similar ideologies as those mentioned in the story. An example would be, majority is authority. This is how the world goes. It has been this way from as long as history is dated. This story is fiction so it can be interpreted in any way.