The absence of chronology and causality endows anecdotal material with a universal quality. Hence, well-known Spanish American fictional topics are converted into themes of broader scope: the exploitation of the Indian emphasizes the inhumanity of man to man while the machismo element pervading the novel broaches the general theme of violence as a synonym for manhood.
The novel's determinism — the assumption that environment, circumstances, and situation are the decisive factors in a character's life and fate — precludes any possibility of individual development or, accordingly, of social progress. Therefore the novel presents an existentialist dilemma: Man's frustrated attempts to take charge of his life lead only to despair. All the characters are caught in a web of thwarted intentions. The fragmentation of the narrative structure conveys the frustration, alienation, and helplessness of each character.