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Continuity of Parks

Julio Cortázar


Themes, Motifs, and Symbols


The Danger of Subsuming Yourself in Literature

“Continuity of Parks” argues that your success in reading or writing fiction depends on your willingness to lose yourself utterly in the task. A true reader, like the protagonist of Cortázar’s story, will tumble into fiction consciously and deliberately. He will subsume himself so thoroughly that he will feel as if he has become part of the fictional world. If we, Cortázar’s audience, respond to “Continuity of Parks” in the way the reader responds to his book, we will come to the end of the story as if coming to the end of a vivid dream, not sure of what is real and what is imagined. The responsibility of a true writer is to create a world powerful and colorful enough to enable readers to lose themselves in it. At the same time, however, subsuming one’s self in reading and writing can be dangerous—it’s no coincidence that the reader’s book concerns murder and betrayal. The story ends with a suggestion that the immersed reader is, at least metaphorically, on the brink of death. Cortázar implies that becoming engrossed in fiction is both a goal worth striving for and a way of losing hold of your identity.


The Color Green

The color green, which recurs throughout “Continuity of Parks,” highlights the power that fiction gives us to slip into another world while simultaneously remaining in our own world. As the reader lets himself fall into the novel, his green velvet chair acts as an anchor tying him to reality. He enjoys the feeling of the upholstery under his hand and behind his head as he lets the characters and plot wash over him. At the end of the story, when the man sneaks up on his victim, the green velvet armchair he sees sits right on the boundary of real and imagined, making us wonder which is which. Though unnamed, the color green is implied with each mention of the trees and the outdoors, elements that again suggest a simultaneous existence in two worlds. Trees link the two men: the reader senses the presence of the oak trees in his garden while the man in the story is scratched by a tree branch. The title “Continuity of Parks” also references the color green. On one level, the title refers to Cortázar’s story, which begins and ends in the reader’s park. On another level, the title refers to no less than life and fiction, which Cortázar characterizes as a long, interwoven series of green parks.


The Knife

The knife, which the man plans to use to kill his lover’s husband, stands for the man’s jealousy of his rival but, more important, also stands for the potentially lethal intersection between fact and fiction. When the man in the book creeps into the room containing a green armchair, we realize that fiction and reality have blended together and that the reader has become a part of the fictional world in his book. In this way, the knife serves as an anchor that links the two worlds together. Moreover, the fact that the knife symbolizes one thing in the book and something else in the story is typical of “Continuity of Parks,” which argues that colors, themes, symbols, and characters leap back and forth between our lives and our books, weaving the two together.

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