National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
Sun, Stone, and Shadows

Sun, Stone, and Shadows

by Jorge F. Hernández

The temples and gods of pre-Columbian Mexico are a pile of ruins, but the spirit that breathed life into that world has not disappeared… Being a Mexican writer means listening to the voice of that present, that presence.


Temple of El Castillo in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico (Copyright Mark Segal/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

  1. How would you characterize the relationship between the United States and Mexico as seen through the stories in the anthology? Choose two stories and discuss them.
  2. Identify common themes of the stories in Sun, Stone, and Shadows. Discuss three you feel are most important to understanding Mexican culture, history, or religion.
  3. Examine the role of violence as a catalyst of change in both Martín Luis Guzmán's and José Revueltas's stories.
  4. Choose two stories that describe Mexico's landscape. How might this setting suggest universal themes?
  5. How might the bureaucratic satire in Juan José Arreola's "The Switchman" relate to the modern world?
  6. What is the attitude toward capital punishment in Juan Rulfo's "Tell Them Not to Kill Me!"?
  7. Although Octavio Paz's "My Life with the Wave" is a fantastical story, does the plot resemble other stories you have read? How does the story describe a conventional love affair, and how does the wave act in ways a real woman might?
  8. In Carlos Fuentes's "Chac-Mool," how do you interpret the anger and aggressiveness of the statue as it comes to life?
  9. In what ways are feminine stereotypes challenged in Rosario Castellanos's story "Cooking Lesson"?
  10. In what ways are the portrayals of indigenous people similar in the stories by Elena Garro and Inés Arredondo? How are they different?
  11. How does the narrator's point of view contribute to an eerie atmosphere in Francisco Tario's "The Night of Margaret Rose"? How would the story change if it were told from a different perspective?
  12. Choose your favorite story from Sun, Stone, and Shadows. Which aspects of it seem particular to Mexico, and which remind you of the United States? What might these similarities or differences suggest about the two countries?
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