Tulio Arcos is a tragic figure, an artist torn between the meta-physical and the practical demands of the modern world. His visions completely separate him from the physical world, and his creative form, completely mental, is never seen outside anyone but the artist himself. Miguel Mercado moves from his journalistic career and at the end of the novel, set out creating a purely artistic endeavor: a play.
Unfortunately, the commerce of the endeavor including clashes with producers, actors and directors turns his artistic creation into a farce, so much so that the audience thinks that the work is ironically horrendous, laughing at his work for all the wrong reasons. The crux of the novel hinges on a semi-autobiographical episode of heavy substance abuse that halts his artistic production.
Later Mercado is introduced to morphine by a friend who is a former doctor and opiate addict.
At first the morphine provides him with great inspiration for his literary work, but eventually, as the doses increase, his literary production all but ceases completely. After finding work in journalism again, Mercado overhears his colleagues discussing the political and social maladies of Mexico as if they had no bearing on their own personal lives.
In this moment he is inspired to write on issues pertinent to the lives of all of Mexico, and not of the Francophile elite. His work is misunderstood and rejected by his editors as well as the masses he intends to politically awaken through his art. Exasperated and defeated, Miguel Mercado exiles himself from the capital city headed for the Pacific coast.
Like the other works studied in this chapter, the opiate experience is inexorably linked to the literary process. Nevertheless, eventually morphine addiction leads to the ultimate literary crisis: writer s block. His second literary career is ultimately frustrated, but it is initiated and sustained in part to the focus and direction given by his love, Fina. At the moment his literary inspiration turns sour due to the misunderstanding of his compatriots, his wife becomes deathly ill.
Both morphine and the femme fatale are described with contradictory language. They are both extremely alluring yet at the same time frightening and repulsive. Morphine offers an intense pain-relieving experience but also can lead to addiction and physical and mental degeneration. The femme fatale is a hyper-sexual woman that offers physical pleasure yet often usurps the masculine power of the male individual.
In her book Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in Nineteenthcentury British and American Literature, Susan Zieger writes that doctors of the mid-nineteenth century in England and the US prescribed morphine injections to cure various ailments such as hysteria for mostly high-class female patients resulting in a high percentage of female morphine addicts This cultural phenomena coupled with the established literary trope of feminine lack of self-control and mendacity provided a facile connection between woman, deceit and morphinomania for many writers Zieger Zieger also notes a growing preoccupation in the nineteenth century with women s use of morphine and its connection to illicit and secretive sexual pleasure They are both a source of inspiration as well as a soul-crushing force.
The femme fatale is an androgynous being, both attracting and repulsing the male.
The male has no control over his emotions and subjects himself to the will of the femme fatale. Despite the perceived advantages provided by morphine, the narrator notes, and foreshadows, the contradictory dangers to the pain-relieving, anxiety erasing alkaloid. Mercado himself describes the morphine as his Sirena Morfina Morphine is not only personified, but feminized. It is a source of literary inspiration, a muse, and ultimately with increased exposure, a paradoxically source of his literary demise.
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But despite being feminized, like the femme fatale, morphine exhibits masculine characteristics: it penetrates the male subject and injects itself into the bloodstream. Morphine takes control of its subject, relieving bodily pain and affecting brain activity. With increased exposure, the male subject becomes dependent on the drug, leaving 21 See the other example in the novels studied in this chapter: Nini Roussett De sobremesa and Lidia Brecklin Lirio negro. More and more, women were gaining power and influence. At the same time, cosmopolitan males felt the doubts and insecurities that were viewed as characteristically feminine.
In order to escape the power of his morphine addiction, Miguel Mercado seeks salvation from another feminine figure; the Marian figure of Fina. In essence, morphine Sirena Morfina and Fina conform to the binary view of women still prevalent in modern western thinking that insists that women are either virgin saints or unredeemable prostitutes. Mercado searches for personal and literary salvation through both entities. Sirena Morfina gives the illusion of this salvation.
Upon exiting rehab, Mercado shifts his need for meaning through external forces from morphine to Fina. However, this source of inspiration Fina is flawed and Mercado sees her as an ultimate source of salvation that he cannot live without. She encourages him to have a couple drinks during social gatherings leading to a relapse into alcoholism. The two are essentially two sides of the same coin. While his wife is away in the hospital, Mercado embarks on the failed production of his play, resulting in his selfexile from the Mexican capital.
Mercado becomes dependent on various treatments to his weaknesses without attending to the illness itself. He relies on the assistance of either substances such as alcohol and morphine or the emotional support of a woman. He is unable to suceed without an external means of support, and this leads to his failure and self-exile.
This is represented in the novel by the corruption of Mercado s theater production and the audience s negative reception of the work. Mercado, though, is afflicted by the same illness These repercussions are entirely centered on himself. He thinks to himself that Fina s death would be the end of him and of his family, not showing empathy towards the impending death of another person. Her pain becomes his loss. Scientifically, it has recently been proven that endogenous opiates, those naturally released in one s own body, have a neurological role in creative motivation Flaherty The release of these opiates is what gives humans the reward for creativity.
This phenomenon is related to the drive to communicate by which writing becomes a version of communication. Forms of communication release endogenous opiates, but the use of opium or morphine reduces the desire to communicate write thus decreasing motivation and communicative literary production Flaherty The narrative vacillates between a 3 rd person omniscient narrator and the inner thoughts of the protagonist reflected in interior monologues or from the readings of his own diary. Tormented by his craving for morphine, the protagonist fights droughts of creativity and artistic production due to his progressive decline into addiction and decadence.
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The story ends with the protagonist overdosing on the secret stash of morphine he has hidden in a hollowed-out book. Throughout this work, there are further connections with literary production and the protagonist s drug use. The poet personifies the source of his malady, converting his addiction into a literary device: the muse. I quina obra que farem, morfina!
Quin fill tendrim tots dos! And like the morphine injection, the illness of creativity and literary production is relegated to those that have the economic opportunities to choose this self-inflicted illness. Like the short story itself, the life of the protagonist ends at the story s final words. As the story ceases to exist in the mind of the reader, the protagonist dreams his final opiated dream.
The artist s whole reason for being centers on his life s work as well as the substance that gives 24 But you will give me strength, Morphine! It doesn t matter that you will eventually kill me. This very day I will work.
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I will put down my thoughts and you will support my hand, if you want, since you have the bravery I lack. And what beautiful poetry we will make, Morphine! What a child the two of us will have! What beauty!
It will be the work thirty years in the making, of desiring you and not being able to have you. This source is not only his impetus for action but also his downfall. In the minds of the Romantics, inspiration came from an outside source and in the minds of some: the tree of inspiration would eventually cease to bear fruit. Described as an unrequited lover, the morphine becomes a literary figure itself, transcending the contemporary fears of actual drug abuse and serving the author s aesthetic purpose.
This process also includes la lectura, reading. The protagonist reflects on his relationship with morphine by going back to his journal writing, re-reading past entries in which he addresses his source of inspiration and simultaneously his demise.