Through telling his life story in the novel
Through telling his life story in the novel, Lazarillo de Tormes, Lazaro depicts the society he lives in as one in which deception is the focus of every interaction. Being born as the son of a thief and then adopted by another, it becomes evident that Lazaro is affiliated to a social division of people who rely on lying and cheating to survive. Lazaro quickly learns the art of deception through a series of unforgiving masters and his dishonouring reputation as a cuckold. It becomes clear that the telling of the story serves as an explanation or defense to “Your Honour” about the understanding he has made with the archpriest about his wife. This paper will focus on Lazaro’s ability to survive, create peace for himself and uncover the only certain truth of his life by being deceptive.
After leaving his family at a young age to fend for himself, Lazaro goes on to serve many masters who benefit from the inexperience of others to make their living. With each new master and the suffering of abuse and starvation, his survival depends on how deceptive he can be with his masters. After Lazaro becomes a servant to the blind man, he promptly seeks revenge at any given moment it becomes apparent to him. Although the impression may be made that he is a victim after suffering many months of abuse and starvation, Lazaro is viewed as a deceiver rather than a victim. When one final act of vengeance is bestowed upon him, he uses the opportunity to showcase his mendaciousness. His final betrayal of the blind man represents a moment of the student surpassing the master in the art of deception. Later on, Lazaro assumes the responsibility of serving the priest. He suffers more months of abuse and is only able to survive by generating the illusion that mice have been eating the loaves of bread that he has been stealing. Finally, Lazaro settles down with the second constable, where he realizes that the job is too dangerous after the constable is assaulted by fugitives. This brief element reveals Lazaro’s deceptiveness and lack of loyalty when he abandons the constable in search of a government job, which he believes will lead to “an easy life and earn something for his old age” (58). Here, he seems to be interested in nothing more than his own well-being.
Years later, Lazaro finds work as a town crier in Toledo where he advertises local wines and broadcasts the news. The archpriest of San Salvador discovers how sharp ready-witted Lazaro is through his expertise for selling the archpriest’s wines and he arranges for Lazaro to marry a maid of his. He accepts, thinking that “only advantages and good could come from being associated with the reverend gentleman, my lord, and Your Honour’s servant and friend” (59). From his description, it is evident that the he views the marriage with the maid as an economical relationship rather than a romantic one. However, he soon recognizes that his wife and the archpriest are carrying on a secret sexual relationship that the town of Toledo is conscious of. When Lazaro accuses the archpriest and maid of adultery, it only provokes his wife to cry out and curse until Lazaro makes an arrangement with the archpriest granting his wife permission to visit the archpriest as she pleases and never touching upon the topic again. Being cuckolded causes the reader to believe that Lazaro is being victimized, however, he chooses to ignore the moral questions of the arrangement as he believes it will work to his financial benefit, characteristerizing him as a deceiver. The arrangement with the archpriest symbolizes another deceptive act of Lazaro in which he has transformed indisputably into one who is willingly ignorant and complicit in various acts of deception similar to the many characters in his youth.
Lastly, he concludes by noting that in the same year the victorious Emperor entered the famous city of Toledo and held his parliament there, Lazaro had found prosperity and “the height of his good fortune” (60). He promises to keep the reader, who he addresses once again as “Your Honour,” enlightened on what may become of him. In this conclusion, it becomes clear that Lazaro is referring to the arrangement he has developed with the archpriest about his wife to “Your Honour” in the preface. Lazaro brings light to the proposition that his story serves as an explanation or defense to “Your Honour” concerning the matter that the archpriest is in danger of being punishment for keeping a mistress during a time where archpriests were moral leaders of the church and expected to remain celibate. Lazaro seems to indicate to “Your Honour” that the only notable truth within his childish little story is that of the absolute rule of deception.
In conclusion, Lazaro is distinguished as a deceiver who relies on his ability to lie and fraud others to gain personal success. He uses deceptive tactics to outwit his masters, ignores the moral questions of his reputation as a cuckold and suggests that deception brings the truth about his story to light. However, in contrast to Lazaro’s view on truth, the anonymous author of this book can be perceived as more optimistic about the outcome of exposing the truth, since the publication of the book exposed extreme hypocrisy and risked his life in the process.