Amy (Pardo) Cepparo, M.A.
Education: Bachelor of Science in modern languages (May 2000)
Master of Arts in Spanish and Spanish-American literature from the University of Texas at Austin
McNair Project: The Process of Self-Discovery in Ricardo Guirades's Don Seguno Sombra (1999)
Mentor: Silvia Sauter, Ph.D.
Considered the foremost mythical novel of the gaucho, Don Segundo Sombra (1926), by Argentinean writer Ricardo Guiraldes (1886-1927), has received international critical acclaim. A leading critic, Hugo Rodriguez Alcala, argues that most critics do not grasp the integrity of Guiraldes when they question his wealthy, apparently unconcerned mode of life instead of analyzing his work. In this novel Guiraldes reveals - through the journey of the young protagonist Fabio under the guidance of Don Segundo - an authentic love for his land and a way of life that was disappearing from Argentina. This research explores the labyrinthine process of initiation that Fabio goes through, which consists of a series of stages that mark the development of the adolescent into manhood. The traditional process of self- discovery is depicted in art, mythology, folklore, dreams, and other psychic phenomena. This study, based on the analytical psychology of Carl Jung, Erich Neumann, and Edward Edinger, follows Fabio through the ritual steps of development.
In the novel Fabio recounts, as first person narrator, his life from early childhood to adulthood. When he is six years old, he leaves his mother to live with his aunts in a small town near Buenos Aires. Soon he begins to feel like a prisoner amidst his two domineering aunts. Then, when Fabio meets a gaucho, Don Segundo Sombra, he decides to follow him. Under Don Segundo Sombra's teaching and protection, Fabio learns the gaucho culture and life while aspiring to become a gaucho himself. After five years, Fabio receives a letter stating that he has inherited an estancia, which forces him to drastically change his life again, becoming a rancher ("or estanciero") and a cultured man.
The heroic voyage is always initiated with a departure to the unknown in search of a cherished prize. Since the process is psychic or symbolic, the individual becomes a hero by merely starting the voyage. Fabio's venture into the plains (the Argentine pampa) corresponds to the decent into the unknown (underworld) guided in this case by his chosen paternal figure. Along his path, the hero must prevail over a series of obstacles and dangers in order to overcome his old self by becoming a man, assuming his social responsibility, and being integrated into the group if he is to succeed in his inner development. Fabio's daily cohabitation with gauchos installs in him a sense of pride and community, which makes the separation harder when he is forced to leave them. Don Segundo finally departs when Fabio, no longer an adolescent, has triumphed in his process of self-discovery.