Author: Anonymous (believed to be a Spanish author)
Publish Date: 1554
Genre: Picaresque novel
Page Length: Approximately 50 pages
The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes is a picaresque novel, written in 1554 by an anonymous Spanish author. The protagonist, Lazarillo, is a poor Spanish boy who must learn to navigate the harsh realities of life in 16th century Spain. The novel consists of seven chapters, each of which tells the story of Lazarillo's life with a different master.
In the first chapter, Lazarillo is introduced as the son of a poor miller. He is forced to begin working at a young age and becomes an apprentice to a blind man. The blind man turns out to be not as helpless as he seems and is able to trick Lazarillo into doing all of his work for him. Lazarillo must then find a new master.
In the second chapter, Lazarillo becomes the servant of a priest. Initially, he is excited at the prospect of working for a man of God, but soon realizes that the priest is not as holy as he appears. The priest steals from the church and forces Lazarillo to help him.
In the third chapter, Lazarillo is taken in by a squire who is preparing for a jousting tournament. Lazarillo helps the squire prepare for the tournament, but when the squire loses, he is unable to pay Lazarillo. Lazarillo must then find a new master.
In the fourth chapter, Lazarillo works for a friar who feeds him well but treats him poorly. The friar gives Lazarillo the task of guarding some grapes, but instead of guarding them, Lazarillo eats them. When the friar finds out, he beats Lazarillo and puts him out on the street.
In the fifth chapter, Lazarillo works for a chaplain who is sickly and bedridden. Lazarillo helps the chaplain with his religious duties but quickly realizes that the chaplain is cheating on his taxes and stealing from the church.
In the sixth chapter, Lazarillo works for a rich nobleman who treats him well but is also a thief. Lazarillo helps the nobleman steal from other people and becomes complicit in his crimes.
In the final chapter, Lazarillo becomes a town crier and marries a woman from a wealthy family. Despite his newfound success, Lazarillo is haunted by his past and the various masters he served. He is always looking over his shoulder, afraid that his past will catch up with him.
Throughout the novel, the theme of social mobility is explored. Lazarillo starts out as a poor boy and through his various masters, is able to climb the social ladder. However, he realizes that this upward mobility comes at a cost. Each of his masters is corrupt in some way and Lazarillo must compromise his morals in order to survive.
Another theme that is explored is the idea of appearances vs. reality. Each of Lazarillo's masters appears to be something they are not. The blind man appears helpless, the priest appears holy, the squire appears noble, and so on. However, as Lazarillo gets to know each of them, he realizes that their appearances are merely a façade.
The novel is important because it is one of the earliest examples of the picaresque genre. It is also significant in that it provides insight into 16th century Spanish society and the struggles faced by the lower classes. While the novel is a work of fiction, it is based in reality and provides commentary on the corruption and moral decay of Spanish society at the time. The novel has also been seen as a critique of the Catholic Church, which was the dominant religious institution in Spain at the time.
Overall, The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes is a fascinating and important work of literature. It provides a glimpse into a bygone era and explores timeless themes that are still relevant today. The novel is a must-read for anyone interested in Spanish literature, the picaresque genre, or the history of Spain.