The first novelty in "Luvina" is its surprise beginning. From the darkly beautiful and resonant title, we might assume that the eponymous subject is a woman and that some exotically romantic love tale is in store for us. With the opening line we realize, however, that Luvina is not a person but a place. As we read on, moreover, we find out that Luvina is not an attractive spot but a decaying rural scar whose desolate physical environment invades the human spirit, racks social existence, and reduces its inhabitants to passive and fatalistically cynical old men and women.
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In this case the speaker is the teacher who previously taught in the town of Luvina, speaking to the new teacher who is about to travel there. The reader does not discover this until midway through the story, however.
The narration occurs in first person except in moments where an omniscient narrator intervenes with some general details about the scene. The story begins with a description of the terrain in which the town is situated.
The sounds of children playing can also be heard. Because of this the reader knows that the two men are not currently in the town of Luvina. The speaker asks for two more beers from the barman named Camilo.
He continues talking to his listener about Luvina, describing the landscape and the lack of luxuries - like the beer they are now drinking. After much of this description, the reader learns that the narrator used to live in Luvina, where the listener will be visiting. Agripina is not able to find either, and ends up sleeping with her child in the church. When the narrator finds her there, she explains that she was denied food.
The family sleeps in the church. Everyone flees the town. After all, the government was beholden to them because it is their country. In response, the people of Luvina laughed at his naive speech. The narrator explains that they were right. The narrator explains that this is why he left Luvina and does not intend to return. His listener, however, is going there in a few hours.
I made the experiment and it failed. The narrator then proposes that the two ask the bartender for some mescal instead of more beers. He is about to begin talking again, but goes silent as his gaze becomes fixed on the table where the carcasses of flying ants have collected in a ring around the lamp. The narrator finally falls asleep on the table. It is also notable that this story is practically devoid of action.
Other than this, the vast majority of this story is comprised of vivid description of the town and the natural elements that endeavor to rid the town of any vestiges of life. In fact, in the novel the characters actually are ghosts, although the reader does not realize this until late in the story.
In this story the critical social issue at hand is the education of a country in desperate need of social justice and modernization. As the narrator explains, however, not only is the government deaf to the needs of the citizens of Luvina it only pays them a visit when in pursuit of one of their delinquent sons , but the citizens themselves are so closely tied to provincial traditions that they cannot bear the thought of abandoning the town.
As the he describes his urging of the townspeople to appeal to the government for assistance, we are reminded that—for the first time in The burning plain—the protagonist is a employee and promoter of the revolutionary government. In the end it is clear that the likelihood of successfully integrating Luvina into the nation — the task laid out for both the towns old the narrator and new the listener teachers — is slim.
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