Representing Horror through Ritual: José Revueltas’ Los motivos de Caín

Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Languages, Literatures and Cultures


JOSÉ Revueltas’s Los motivos de Caín (1957) is about a US Army deserter, Jack Mendoza, who has fled the US for Tijuana.1 Religious themes, including the obvious allusion to the Biblical account of Cain, as well as modified religious rituals, figure prominently in the text. Los motivos de Caín, moreover, takes place in spaces set apart from everyday life: in Tijuana, in a Mexican barrio in Los Angeles, and in a war zone in Korea.2 In Los Angeles, the novel removes itself from linear time by anachronistically conflating distinct historical events. Then, in Korea, Jack and his fellow soldiers perform the rituals of Bible reading and prayer and allude to the liturgy; in each case, the rituals are explicitly tied to horrible situations even as they transport the characters to another level of existence or meaning. Los motivos de Caín’s distance from previously-held understandings of space and time in Mexico allows it to take place in a ritual space, which, in turn, is reinforced by the novel’s own presentation of religious rituals. This double representation of ritual plays a crucial role in the novel’s exploration of the horrors of war.


© Hispanofila, 2015.

Janzen, Rebecca. (2015). Representing Horror through Ritual: José Revueltas’s Los motivos de Caín. Hispanofila . 173. 293-301. 10.1353/hsf.2015.0032.