Notes on Theme of the Traitor and the Hero by Jorge Luis Borges

Topics: Narrative, History, Fiction Pages: 3 (745 words) Published: July 1, 2004
Theme Of The Traitor And The Hero

"That history should have imitated history was already sufficiently astonishing; that history should imitate literature is inconceivable. . . ."

Plot Summary & Historical Background:

Settings - The Narrative is set in Ireland in 1824. However Borges is only using this as an example. He says " The action takes place in a oppressed and tenacious country: Poland, Ireland, The Venetian Republic, some South American or Balkan state". This universalises the story of Kilpatrick and the experience of Ryan showing it has happened everywhere.

It ends with Ryan deciding to keep silent the discovery that his great-grandfather was a traitor to the same cause to which history had deemed him a hero. The wants to preserve his great-grandfathers heroicism and keeps the peoples passion for the revolutionary cause. In doing so he becomes part of the entire lie himself.

Themes & Main Ideas:

Borges point out that "Though the narrator is contemporary, his story occurred towards the middle or the beginning of the 19th century". This shows that even Ryan's story is subject to sceptic scrutiny as is any historical account.


· Borges himself - telling of Kilpatrick and establishing the scene

· Ryan - Borges' invented Narrator

· Kilpatrick

· Shakespeare

· Nolan

As typical in all Borges narratives, his characters are barely developed and are only used as simple vehicles to get across his themes.


Big words

Theme Of The Traitor And The Hero vs. The Shape of the Sword:

Theme Of The Traitor And The Hero and The Shape of the Sword are similar in that they both tell the story of a traitor and what happened to him. The Shape of the Sword equivalent to Kilpatrick is John Vincent Moon. However in Theme of the Traitor and The Hero it finishes with Kilpatrick a hero whereas Moon lives and is isolated and feels guilty for the rest of his life. They are both set in Ireland around the time of the...
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