Lazarillo of Tormes (1554) -Summary Author: Anonymous.
Lazarillo of Tormes is a fabulous and entertaining narrative that defies classification. While some scholars and critics have attempted to call it a novel, it isn’t really a novel as readers think of a novel today.
It is a narrative in the form of a letter. In this respect it could be considered an “epistolary novel” similar to the novels that British novelist Samuel Richardson wrote: Pamela and Clarissa. Except that the Lazarillo contains a unique narrative voice that gives testimony to his adventures, disgraces, misadventures, and ill-luck.
In addition, Lazaro’s testimony is recounted with in his own first voice, never deviating from it. The result was the birth of the picaresque novel—a new genre.
It isn’t until the end of the narration that readers realize that Lazaro has been compelled to explain why he took the trouble to write his autobiography. There’s an intimation of his ulterior motive for writing in the prologue, but it isn’t elucidated.
It appears that a person of authority requests an explanation as to why certain improprieties against morality are being bandied about.
During Lazaro’s times, the Inquisition and its officers would often make explanatory requests against moral charges. In fact, the book was blacklisted by placing it in the Inquisition’s Index of banned books.
Beneath the literary attempt to present Lazaro’s writing as that of an uneducated man of the streets who survives by his wits, the rhetorical devices and insightful commentaries reveal the workings of a first class mind; that is, that the author is really a person of learning.
At the end of the letter readers learn that Lazaro has achieved relative success in life by securing well paid employment—The Town Crier.
This position encompasses much more than its title, for researchers have shown that the town crier in Lazaro’s times was a business man, a sort of middle man or agent through him many money-making opportunities were contracted.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 – Lazaro Tells about His Parents
Chapter 2 – How Lazaro Finds a New Master: a Priest
Chapter 3 – How Lazaro Found his Third Master: a Squire
Chapter 4 – How Lazaro Found his Fourth Master: a Friar of the Order of Mercy
Chapter 5 – How Lazaro Found his Fifth Master: a Pardoner
Chapter 6 – How Lazaro Went to Work for a Chaplain
Chapter 7 – How Lazaro Went to Work for a Constable
The Prologue ends with Lázaro suggesting that as a hard working man he has achieved more than those who –thanks to the generosity of Fortune– have “inherited noble estates”- a daring criticism of the nobility.