The story “Paso” by jose Donoso is a compelling story of love and the absence of.
It takes place in a well to do home that thrives on traditionalism. This traditionalism is
disturbed by the coming of a new member into this inner circle of house mates and the
problems that accrue due to this. This paper will look at the theme of the story both
before and after the introduction of this new member. The writer will also offer theory as
to why and how the traditionalism was broken and this “house” fell apart.
To begin the one must look to the write of the story to understand the traditional
style of this story and the motives that lie behind it. Jose Donoso is generally a traditional
writer as pointed out by Alexander Coleman in his essay “Some thoughts on Jose
Donoso’s Traditionalism.” This thought is exemplified by the story Paso, from the theme
to the setting. So since it is known that traditionalism is a favored style by Donoso it will
make following the plot that much easier.
The plot of Paso is slow at first introducing the characters and situation, but
quickens towards the end. As the end draws to a close the reader is left with a mixture of
feelings from pity to happiness. This is the result of traditional tail, it is intertwined with
common feelings and situations to which all can identify with that all are affected by the
In the beginning the situation is introduced to the reader by a narrator recounting
the story from a childhood experience. It is known quite quickly in the story that the
home in which the story takes place is very empty of feelings as is expressed by the
narrator say “it was not happy” instead of “it was sad” because that is exactly what I
mean to say”(Donoso315).
This absence of feeling is the foundation for the story. The control of the central
character Aunt Mathilda is the stealer of these “feelings”. She throughout the story is
shown as a cold proper person. She is described by the narrator as an ugly woman and
knowing that she would never marry took to taking care of her brothers. These three
brothers are the focus of her attentions leaving the narrator with feelings of reject due to
the fact that his mother died when he was 4 and his father (Aunt Mathilda’s brother) was
just as unemotional as his aunt.
The thoughts and feelings are exemplified throughout the story but are fully
developed and represented in the “Pool-Time” sections of the story. “Pool-Time” is
described as a ritual after dinner in which the three men and aunt Mathilda would play a
few rounds and drink coffee. The game is controlled by (as like most things) Aunt
The young narrator describes “Pool-Time” with disdain. The reader can see his
hurt, and want to participate in the game ultimately then participating in the role of a
family member to which he is usually denied. The closest contact the narrator gets to
“family contact” is the sometimes presented opportunity in which he gets to chalk his
fathers cue-stick.
The feeling of regimens should now be formulating in the mind for that is exactly
what this family is. Proper is more important than mere feeling. All in this situation seem
to dwell in the comfortableness of this yet ignore or refuse to accept the emotional
barrenness of the situation. This is all changed by the introduction of a stray dog to the
The stray dog is presented to the story by way of an accident, literally. The dog
which is referred to as the “white bitch” throughout the story is hit by a car. This accident
is witnessed by the narrator and his aunt. The narrator describes the introduction between
the dog and Mathilda as follws”When we passed in front of her I noticed that my aunt
looked at the bitch, and the bitches eyes returned her gaze”(Donoso320). The pass of
glances is described as a “magical” moment and one can almost physically feel the plot
The dog, after following the narrator and aunt Mathilda home and standing
outside there home for many nights, finally sneaks into the home. This intrusion into aunt
Mathilda’s perfect world by an imperfect animal is too much for Mathilda to handle. She
is described as saying”She has to get better so we can throw her out(Donoso321)”. This
exemplifies her need to make perfect imperfections in her life and shows