http://www. taken there, don’t you agree?” “Most people would say you are right. Over at the inn you can talk to people who have. The Switchman1. Juan José Arreola.

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His best-known and most anthologized tale, “The Switchman” exemplifies his taste for humor, satire, fantasy, and philosophical themes. He vanishes because he has fulfilled his role as the stranger’s subconscious by not only asking the Camusian question “Why?

By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. But upon inquiring again where the stranger wants to go, the switchman receives the answer X instead of T. Awareness of the absurd human condition can come at any moment, but it is most likely to happen when, suddenly confronted by the meaninglessness of hectic daily routine, he or she asks the question “Why? The stranger argues that he should be able to go to T. Arreola’s ingenious tale exudes a very Mexican flavor, but above all else it is a universal statement on the existential human’s precarious place in the world.

ce In some cases, new towns, like the town of F. Though some consider him to be a pioneer in the field on non-realistic literature, critics of him felt that social conditions in Mexico demanded a more realistic examination of the inequalities. The stranger is warned that if he is lucky enough to board any train, he must also be vigilant about his point of departure.

The Switchman – Wikipedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The absurd human is one who recognizes a lack of clear purpose in life and therefore resolves to commit himself or herself to the struggle for order against the unpredictable, fortuitous reality he or she encounters.

The horrified stranger, who keeps insisting that he must arrive at destination T the next day, is therefore advised to rent a room in a nearby inn, an ash-colored building resembling a jail where would-be travelers are lodged. Suddenly, a train approaches and the switchman begins to signal it. When he asks if the train has left, the old man wonders if the traveler has been in the country very long and advises him to find lodging at the local inn for at least a month.

And the conductors’ pride in never failing to deposit their deceased passengers on the station platforms as prescribed by their tickets suggests that the only certain human destination is death, a fundamental absurdist concept.

He does not understand why the stranger insists on going to T. Another episode involves a trainload of energetic passengers who became heroes absurd heroes in Camusian terms when they disassembled their arrdola, carried it across a bridgeless chasm, and reassembled it on the other side in order to complete their journey.


The “switchman” tells the stranger that the country is famous for its railroad system; though many timetables and tickets have been produced, the trains do not follow them well. The Switchman Original title: The short story was originally published as a confabularioa word created in Mos by Arreola, inin the collection Confabulario and Other Inventions.

The old man then dissolves in the clear morning air, and only the red speck of the lantern remains visible before the noisily approaching engine. The stranger still wishes to travel on his train to T. Briefly summarized, “The Switchman” portrays a stranger burdened with a joz suitcase who arrives at a deserted station at the exact time his train is supposed to leave.

Instead, they resembled the work of writers like Ds Kafka and Albert Camus and their examination of the human condition. Camus writes that neither humans alone nor the world by itself is absurd.

Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia. In his piece, Arreola focuses on reality as well. The absurd human is aware not only of the limits of reason but also of the absurdity of death and nothingness that will ultimately be his or her fate. When the stranger asks the switchman how he knows all of this, the switchman replies that he is a retired switchman who visits train stations to reminisce about old times. Views Read Edit View history.

El Guardagujas… de Juan José Arreola

The residents accept this system, but hope for a change in the system. Retrieved April 12, Retrieved December 31, from Encyclopedia.

The railroad management was so pleased that they decided to suspend any official bridge building and instead encourage the stripping and recreation of future trains. The switchman then tells a story of arreoal train rides when the trains arrived at impossible locations. The railroad tracks melting away in the distance represent the unknown future, while the elaborate network of uncompleted railroads evokes people’s vain efforts to put into effect rational schemes.

Guareagujas there is only one rail instead of two, the trains zip along and allow the first class passengers the side of the train riding on the rail. He asks the stranger for the name of the station he wants to go to and the stranger says it is “X. The switchman tells the stranger that the inn is filled with people who have made that very same assumption, and who may ds day actually get there. Like most of Arreola’s stories, The Switchman’ can be interpreted in a variety of ways—as an allegory of the pitfalls of the Mexican train system, an existential horror story of life’s absurdities and human limitation, and the author’s desire to laugh in spite of the insanities of the world and human interaction.


As demonstrated by its numerous interpretations, “The Switchman” is fraught with ambiguity. As the stranger is very interested in this, the switchman once again encourages the stranger to try his luck, but warns him not to talk to fellow passengers, who may be spies, and to watch out for mirages that the railroad company generates.

Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. As he gazes at the tracks that seem to melt away in the distance, an old man the switchman carrying a tiny red lantern appears from out of nowhere and proceeds to inform the stranger of the hazards of train travel in this country. Retrieved from ” https: The switchman’s anecdote about the founding of the village F, which occurred when a train accident stranded a group of passengers—now happy settlers—in a remote region, illustrates the element of chance in human existence.

From the first lines of “The Switchman” the stranger stands guatdagujas as a man of reason, guaragujas expecting that, because he has a ticket to T, the train will take ios there on time.

The Switchman

This page was last edited on 8 Septemberat The image immediately thereafter of the tiny red lantern swinging back and forth before the onrushing train conveys the story’s principal theme: The latter comes closest to the most convincing interpretation, namely, that Arreola has based his tale on Albert Camus ‘s philosophy of the absurd as set forth in The Myth of Sisyphus, a collection of essays Camus published in Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.

As the man speculates about where his train might be, he feels a touch on his shoulder and turns to see a small old man dressed like a railroader and carrying a lantern. The stranger is very confused; he has no plans to stay. Print this article Print all entries for this topic Cite this article.

But it soon becomes apparent from the information provided him by his interlocutor that arreolx uncertain journey he is about to undertake is a metaphor of the absurd human condition described by Camus. It seems that, although an elaborate network of railroads has been planned and partially completed, the service is highly unreliable.