The novel begins with the protagonist Cruz, in the hospital bed. His actions in the past are brought through flashback as the novel move between the present and the past. We find that Cruz is a former soldier in the Mexican Revolution where he served there for a quite a long time. Cruz has never been good to the expectation of his career; in fact, he acquires most of the property he owns in a questionable manner. He is one of those guys who want to use the position they have to oppress others and satisfy his selfish wants. As a soldier, Cruz uses violence to obtain all he wants even if he actually knows that it is not good to do that. He brutally exploits the poor to working for him in farms and the construction of his premises. Since his young age, he had been full of revolutionary ideals. Acts he committed as a means of self-preservation soon developed into a way of life that is based on opportunism.
Cruz, a powerful soldier, uses blackmails to the official concerned with land title registration to achieve his desires of land acquisition. He is also found most often involving in bribery to illegally acquire property belonging to the government. He becomes wealthy by this immoral acquisition of people's and the public property (Fuentes, Carlos, and Sam Hileman 22). The novel also captures the corrupt nature of government officials by use of power and criticizes the distortion of revolutionaries' original aspiration. These aims get distorted by Americanization, class domination, financial corruption and failure of land reforms. Cruz uses takes advantage of these departmental downfalls to break the law, and disrespect the others by depriving them what is theirs.
As he lies on his deathbed, his family crowds him pressing him to reveal the location of the will. Cruz's private secretary immediately arrives with audiotapes about his corrupt dealings, many of which are with gringo diplomats and other speculators. The family members are ashamed to listen to how Cruz used undue ways to illegally acquire his wealth. He finally loses his senses and dies.
The novel, The Death of Artemio Cruz brings the Mexican kind of leadership into the light. The Mexican Revolution was led by the struggle for power; the power not to genuinely lead the people in good faith, but to get the opportunity to satisfy one's selfish interests. The power struggles fragmented and disintegrated the intimate relations that were there. This is portrayed symbolically when Artemio Cruz fight his wife, Catalina. It symbolizes that day’s kind power that was so oppressive to the people.
Theme of moral decadence
Many characters in the novel are not morally upright. From the beginning of the novel Cruz has abandoned the church for a very long time. The author uses figurative language to describe Cruz moral decadence. The stench from his nostrils comes inside his body. His body is morally decayed. The doctors who examine him identify the indignities he has (Bloom 31). The presence of the priests makes him confess the immoral acts he has committed throughout his life. His wife is pretending to get concerned with her husband's status, and she is after the will. Cruz has hidden his will and does not want his wife to access the wealth he has acquired.
Cruz betrays a soldier and blackmails her sister into marriage so that he can amass wealth and own land. After he becomes wealthy, he turns out to be an arrogant, unprincipled rascal and very different man. When he was a soldier he was an ambitious veteran who wished to live a decent life for the poor (Magill 42). He yearned to fight back land taken by the rich and divide it among the peasants. In his lifetime, Cruz accumulates wealth through immoral acts such as corruption. He betrays his family, lovers and his friends in order to get wealth. His desire for makes kills his own son, Lorenzo.
Cruz's father who is boastful wealthy man rapes Cruz’s who was a slave. When Cruz's mother gives birth to Cruz, his father mistreats and despises her. Cruz and his mother are left helpless. He is raised by his uncle, Lunero. Cruz uses deceit to win Catalina's love (Fuentes, Carlos, and Sam Hileman 52). He also uses trickery means to acquire more wealth when Catalina's father dies. Since women are prohibited from inheriting property Cruz uses violence to acquire Catalina's family's wealth. When he acquires newspaper in Mexico City, he uses his power to expand his business holdings (Carson, Ben, and Candy Carson 51). Cruz blackmails his business competitors and causes harm to politicians who do not support his deals. He engages in corrupt deals that involved selling of U.S natural resources to businessmen in order to get hefty fee in exchange.
There is a wide gap between the poor and the rich. The rich are living luxurious life at the expense of the poor. The rich people and leaders are exploiting the poor. They have amassed a lot of wealth while many people are peasants. Leaders are greedy for power. The spirit of revolution is weakened by the desire for power. The desire for power disrupts social relation.
Bloom, Harold. Carlos Fuentes' the Death of Artemio Cruz. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2006. Print.
Carson, Ben, and Candy Carson.One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future. N.p., 2014. Print.
Fuentes, Carlos, and Sam Hileman.The Death of Artemio Cruz. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1964. Print.
Magill, Frank N. Masterpieces of Latino Literature. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Print.
Viswalingam, Pria. Decadence.N.p., n.d. Print.