Valenzuela uses irony throughout ‘‘The Censors.’’ Irony is a literary technique in which an author conveys to the reader that there is a discrepancy between what appears to be true in the story and what is actually true. Often the characters in the story are not aware of this discrepancy. In ‘‘The Censors,’’ Juan is not aware of the transformation he has undergone, from a person aware of the dangers posed by overzealous censors, who see threats where none exist, to a person who takes his job—to identify subversive intention— somewhat too seriously, to the point that he sees threats where none exist. Juan’s lack of awareness leads ultimately to his death, for he sees subversive content in his own innocent letter. The narrator comments on this situation at the end of the story by describing Juan as ‘‘one more victim of his devotion to his work.’’ This statement too, is ironic, in that a person who is devoted to his work typically does not die as a result of this devotion. Another example of irony in the story is the fact that Juan has gotten the job at the censorship office to protect himself and Mariana from the danger possibly posed by the letter he has sent, and yet at the censorship office he exposes himself to danger on a daily basis, handling letters that possibly contain explosives and poison.
In ‘‘The Censors,’’ Valenzuela employs an omniscient third-person narrator. Third-person narration is a storytelling technique in which the narration is conducted by a person outside the story’s action. An omniscient narrator, unlike one whose point of view is limited to particular characters, comments at will on the characters or events in the story. Valenzuela’s story begins with the narrator exclaiming, ‘‘Poor Juan!’’ The reader is thus introduced to the narrator as a storyteller with an opinion about the characters and events in the story, and to Juan, as a person with whom we should feel some sympathy. The narrator informs the reader that Juan is a victim; he is tricked into thinking that finding the address of his former love interest is something that will bring him happiness, when in fact it is ‘‘really one of fate’s dirty tricks.’’ The narrator also shares information with the reader that other characters in the story do not possess, such as the fact that Juan’s mother occasionally lies to him and that the censorship offices are not always strict in their hiring practices. Valenzuela uses this style effectively, as the omniscient narrator allows Valenzuela the opportunity to be overtly ironic. In addition, the all-knowing narrator conveys a sense of authority that is similar to that wielded by the censor. The narrator shares the information deemed acceptable for the reader to read, while omitting certain information from the reader as well; the reader, for example, never learns the fate of Mariana.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 29, Luisa Valenzuela, Published by Gale Group, 2001.