Hector Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier is a heartfelt narration of tragedy and revenge. Written in the wake of Guatemala’s Civil War, Los Angeles riots, and migration, the story portrays the real picture of the poverty stricken and depressed lives of immigrants in Los Angeles…
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The story of The Tattooed Soldiers revolves around a young man Antonio Bernal, and an ex-army sergeant Guillermo Longoria. Both of the characters belonged to Guatemala, but they had migrated to Los Angeles. The lives of Antonio and Guillermo coincide when Guillermo kills Antonio’s family in Guatemala. Guillermo may appear to be the culprit and Antonio as victim, but the author has justified the actions and circumstances of both characters. This paper analyses the story in terms of the tussle between evil and good, and human need for justice and concludes that the story is a just sequence of human emotions and reactions to the circumstances.
While Antonio was the victim of Guillermo’s brutal action, Guillermo was also drafted into the Guatemalan arm forcefully. It seems that the author believes in human as a pure creature and circumstances as the real decision maker. He stresses that circumstances can make a good human being do things which are not justified. For instance, Antonio says at a point that “With a gun anyone could be a killer. Guns were very democratic instruments. They did not discriminate. With guns the weak became strong, the frightened brave. Anyone who held one became invincible” (Tobar 269).
He migrates to Los Angeles expecting to live a better life, but to his despair, unfortunate conditions like poverty and homelessness welcomes him in a big city like LA as well. On the other hand, Guillermo seemed to be living a much more assimilated life despite the horrific crime he had inflicted upon Antonio’s family back in Guatemala. It is because he justifies the murders as “the municipal day of vendettas” (Tobar 284). Tobar’s narrative remarkably link these two Guatemalans by a particular Jaguar tattoo as he says, “the tattoo was key to everything” (164).One day, trying his best to live a peaceful life in the city, Antonio finds Guillermo in a park playing chess. He recognizes the tattoo of jaguar Battalion of the Guatemalan Army which was “synonymous with the terror the army spread through the countryside” (163). Haunted by the ill-fated memories of his family, he plans to take justice into his own hands. Antonio decides to study his enemy carefully before taking action. Longoria, who was living as an ex-soldier, seemed unaware that he was being stalked. Antonio’s first encounter with Guillermo failed when he used a broad pipe to harm Guillermo while he was playing chess. Guillermo escapes the attack in utter confusion with a broken arm. Antonio’s failed attempt leads him to quickly execute another attack, this time with a 22 caliber handgun. The second attack proves to be successful and Antonio kills his enemy and avenges the death of his family (Tobar 258). Tobar associated the contrasting lives of two Guatemalans who are living as immigrants in the city of Los Angeles, one is living success due to his past associations and the other living misery for the same, the only difference is the point of their association. Tobar shows
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