Irony in ‘A Gospel according to Mark’ How would you feel accepting somebody into your family and allowing them to preach to you when they are not a religious believer themselves? As we learn more in Jorge Luis Borges story ‘The Gospel according to Mark’ we find a unique message that there exists some greater power in the universe that punishes those that do preach what they do not believe. Borges uses irony in a setting to realize the importance of knowing what you teach and the potential, yet extreme dangers of not doing so.
In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland, where he studied at the College de Geneve. The family travelled widely in Europe, including stays in Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in surrealist literary journals. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. Borges himself was fluent in several languages. Borges dedicated his final work, Los Conjurados (The Conspirators), to the city of Geneva, Switzerland, and it was there, in 1986, that he chose to die (para 2).
Early in the story we get an idea for the character of Espinosa. Borges says “We may describe him for now as no different to any of the many young men of Buenos Aires, with no particular traits worthy of note other than an almost unlimited kindness and an oratorical faculty that had earned him several prizes from the English school in Ramos Mejia” (186). Espinosa is introduced as a skilled speaker, non-confrontational, who is thirty-three years old. Borges describes him as having “no traits worthier of note than the gift for public speaking… e didn’t like to argue” (186). Jesus was renowned for his powerful sermons, peaceful nature, and most of the information available about him starts when he is in his thirties. However, the similarities in personality end there, because unlike Jesus, Espinosa is a freethinker, at least in name, who prefers city living. As we get deeper into the story ’A gospel according to mark’ Borges continually relates stories and similarity’s in the events that leave a clear indication of Jesus and the Bible.
Borges tells the readers ,Espinosa is “thirty-three” with “an almost unlimited kindness and a capacity for public speaking,” (187) making him comparable to Christ at the age of His Crucifixion, who had gained followers with his kindness and charisma. Also, Espinosa, who is stranded indoors with the Gutres family after a large flood that is reminiscent of the Biblical account of Noah’s Ark. Espinosa is once more comparable to Christ when he cures a pet goat with “pills,” an act which resembles magic to the rural family.
By creating this resemblance to Jesus, Borges manages to keep us thinking how good Espinosa is being towards the Gutres and therefore doesn’t give us an opportunity to think of the events that later take place. This is all a part of creating the Irony of the story. Borges uses irony to create and intriguing story. As we are becoming more familiar with the story and the character of Espinosa we believe things are moving smoothly between him and the Gutres family. This shows when Borges characterizes the Gutres as Christ’s followers and writes, “as if lost without [Espinosa,] liked following him from room to room…” (186).
From this we can see how they have become almost reliant on Espinosa and how much of an impact he has had on them. This is where we start to learn the key irony of the story. Espinosa is not religious and only prays before bed because of a promise he had made to his mother. This is ironic in itself as it makes the Christ figure of the story not religious, causing the reader to believe it strange later when Espinosa begins to read to the Gutres from the Bible. Borges sets the scene later for the even greater irony than to be expected.
As readers we expect Espinosa to die of a metaphorical crucifixion, we are taken back to how precise the death of Christ is. The Gutres take the story seriously and don’t see it as the story it is but as if it is orders from their Christ figure. When they later on crucify their Christ, this reveals the greater irony of the story which is the man who calls himself a “free thinker” (187) and is almost ignorant towards religion is actually seen as the Christ figure essentially leading himself and instructing his own death by the Gutres.
The lesson that is opened to Espinosa’s eyes at the end of the story as he realizes what is happening is also one taught to the reader. Both Espinosa and the reader realize, through the ironic situations of the story, the importance of knowing what you teach and the potential, yet extreme, dangers of not doing so. Works Cited Barnet, Sylvan, William Burto & William E. Cain. eds. An Introduction to Literature. 16th ed. New York: Pearson, 2011. Print Last name, initial of first name. Title of the article in italics. 24 Feb 2013. Date published. Placed it was published. Web. URL.
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