This story involves an extended assortment of characters, the very first of which is a lady that has been created out of paper. The author does not bother giving this woman a name, and refers to her merely as ‘she.’ This woman is created by the first every origami surgeon who is named Antonio, and his very first Origami experiment involves bringing his cat to life with the use of organs created with paper (Bookrags.com).
The book, for the most part, follows a columnar format with three columns on most pages. A single column is dedicated to the all-seeing character of Saturn, while the remaining two are on rotation in between the various different characters of the book. Not long after the creation of the woman of paper, the story of Federico comes into play, whose wife Merced leaves him for another man. Little Merced who is their daughter is left in the wake of her mother’s abandonment (Bookrags.com).
Federico soon after his wife walking out, takes his daughter and leaves for Los Angeles. On their journey there, Little Merced meets the woman made of paper and gives her a name. Little Merced and her father settle into their new home in El Monte, and her father becomes a flower picker in the town. Little Merced has a habit of eating limes, and on occasion, she would eat bags full. Even Federico would lose himself in thought over the loss of his wife, and little Merced would notice (Bookrags.com).
Federico is grief-stricken because of his wife’s abandonment, and one day he dreams about her and wets his bed after a very long time. Little Merced worries that he might go into depression again. It is not long afterward that Federico feels exposed in front of Saturn, whom he believes spies on the people of the town, and he urges the people to wage war against him (Bookrags.com).
‘The people of paper’ is a very unconventional and a very experimental novel slash illustration which revolves around enough themes to make it an immensely wealthy piece of literature. Many would however also agree that the story is not necessarily going to appeal to every type of audience and we could call it somewhat of an acquired taste.
Of the many themes that the novel talks about, and enlightens its’ audiences of, one is that of love, and of the struggles that many of the characters face in love. The very first sign of love in the story is evident from the very beginning, whence begins the story of Antonio, the world’s first and very likely the only origami surgeon. This Origami surgeon crafts a woman completely out of paper (Snyders).
The novel portrays the origami surgeon as somewhat of a god, and in the novel, that god becomes so obsessed with his origami as well as with the characters that he has created out of paper. He is so obsessed with his skills and with his creations that he comes up with the idea of living breathing human creations, and he goes on to achieve that imagination of his. This origami surgeon falls for the paper woman that he has created, and she finally leaves him while he bleeds to death from paper cuts.
Another aspect of love that we could consider in the story is the presence of Saturn, a figure that watches over each and every one of the characters in the story, and whose narrative is the only one that is recited in the third person. He talks about the story of a different character each time. The opposite aspect of this is the way that the characters of the novels mostly view Saturn, and for the most part, that is as intrusive. At one point in the novel, Saturn’s role, negative or positive is highlighted in the following words; “Liberated from Saturn, from the order that for years had kept us in line, our narrative organized and mindful of the conventions of story. Now the order had been upset, lost in a melee of voices that for years wanted their freedom. (Plascencia)”
This is one aspect when it concerns the figure of Saturn. Another is the war that is waged against that figure and is instigated by Federico, one of the main characters of the book. This shows the lack of trust in Saturn, and his ability to intrude into the lives of the others. This lack of trust is expressed in the following words; “against the invasion that infiltrated their thoughts and overheard even their softest whispers, murmurs meant to touch only one ear, and to be retrieved only by memory or swabs of cotton” (Snyders). This is how the characters reciprocate for the love of Saturn, and this aspect of the novel provides momentary insight into how the world operates in reality.
Love is also not far from the woman that has been created through origami, for this woman has a number of romantic pursuits. She has more than a few lovers, and all of them bear scars which are results of paper cuts given to them by the woman of paper (Brooks).
In the midst of these portrayals of love and passion, there are also some negative portrayals of love in the novel too, which again provide insight into how things work in the real world, or so the author might think. The novel also narrates stories of failed love, for not very far into the story, the character Federico is left by his wife because of his habit of bedwetting. We have to keep in mind that the women who left her husband for another man were not deterred even by the feelings of motherhood, for her daughter was also left behind.
It has been more than a few times that the story has cited the existence of love triangles, where the women have eventually left their men for others. There was also a racial side to these love triangles for there was quite a repetitive theme of Hispanic women leaving the men of their own race for Caucasian men throughout. The reasons why these women left their men could also be considered somewhat shallow by many accounts, and for many readers, this fact could be a source of irk and anger (Imani).
This element of shallow characters amongst women is very explicitly defined in case of Merced, who left not only her husband who was a bed wetter, but also little Merced, who was their daughter.
In the opinion of many critics, these ups and downs in the stories of love might very well be the reflections of the feelings of the author himself and these themes in the novel reflect the author’s struggles with love (Brooks). What we have to specifically take note of, however, is the fact that the book is full of emotions, like distress, betrayal, intrusions, and fear, and all of these emotions again reflect back to one feeling; which is that of love.
We see it when little Merced smells her father’s urine after quite a long time and worries that he might lapse into depression. We see these feelings when Federico warns his people of the watchful eye of Saturn, and when he convinces them to rebel against it. We see the same feeling in Saturn’s narration, whose focus is on the lives of his characters, and how they struggle with life’s challenges.
Love has been portrayed in the novel in good ways and in bad, and this quite balances the expectations of the readers and gives them constant insight into the negative sides of life, and of life’s struggles.
Bookrags.com. The People of Paper – Prologue Summary & Analysis. n.d. http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-the-people-of-paper/chapanal001.html#gsc.tab=0. 03 August 2018.
Brooks, Zoe. The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia. 21 August 2013. https://magic-realism-books.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-people-of-paper-by-salvador.html.
Imani. The People of Paper. 09 November 2007. https://imani.wordpress.com/2007/11/09/the-people-of-paper/.
Plascencia, Salvador. Salvador Plascencia quotes. n.d. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/24508.Salvador_Plascencia. 03 August 2018.
Snyders, Tom. The People Of Paper / by Salvador Plascencia. 3 November 2005. https://www.straight.com/article/the-people-of-paper-by-salvador-plascencia.