4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Greedy unfriendly bums take a Mexican Holiday,
This review is from: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Paperback)
After reading this book, I was amazed at the drift and contrasting focus of this book. At first, I could not figure out whether the first passages are meant to introduce us to our heroic protagonist so as to have him remain a hero. Did he mean for the main character, Dobbs, to be a hero? While in South America, a victim of oil company greed, Dobbs is somewhat likeable and is an everyman as a bum. Then Traven carries the story into the gold mines of Mexico and gradually allows him to deteriorate into a greed driven paranoid maniac. Was this a drift in the writer's original intention? We are left wondering whether he meant to take the character of Dobb, a vagabond American, and transform him from a relatively hopeful bum struggling to survive in Latin American into a greed possessed and self destructive monstrosity. The ugly male dialogue is full of nasty testosterone and competition. Males on the margin communicate very directly with each other, as evidenced by Traven's colorful insults. Whereas some critiques point out that his male to male stuggles are similar to Earnest Hemingway; others indicate he has developed the social consciousness and economic context surrounding his characters like Upton Sinclair. I would like to point out that his talent for embedding stories within stories is similar to the English writer, A.S. Byatt. His embedded stories are swift tangents, totally relevant to the movement of the main theme, and yet a distanced commentary. For example, one story is about a hard scrappy widow women gold miner who brings her gold to the capital fighting every kind of low class riff raft and thieves as she makes her way out of the jungle and into civilization. Yet, the upper class steal her fortune and cause her to disappear. A cautionary tale that greed is far beyond class lines and in fact may even be less openly evident in the wealthy, but surely just as deadly. The character of Howard, the man who has learned through trail and error to control his greed so as to keep his life was developed beautifully by Traven. He seems too mature and wise to be true and yet he remains true. The novel can be taken at various levels. A structural approach would see all the characters as victims of economic oppression, fighting each other like rats in a jar. Yet the individual character development would argue against this interpretation. Dobbs became evil, Howard remained sane. I found the book to be excellent. Tension filled, strong dialogue, unexpected character development, socially conscious, culturally reflective, rough, and elegant in its time honored message.