The Good, The Bad, The Ugly in Patagonia

Jonathan Bortlinger, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2003

Bruce Chatwin uses many independent stories to describe the environment of Patagonia. He doesn't use long passages of descriptions of nature but rather uses other people's stories to highlight what it is like to exist in Patagonia. Although Patagonia can often seem imposing to outsiders, it nevertheless has an almost magical pull for foreigners. Chatwin focuses on this dualism within his collection of stories from expatriats and from his own observations. This passage describing the life of Butch Cassidy illustrates how Chatwin sees Patagonia as existing beyond its geographical borders to extend across history, memory, and space to encompass many unique individual lives.

In the following year, a Pinkerton detective, Frank Dimaio, tracked them to Cholila with the Winnemucca photograph, but was put off going to Patagonia by stories of snakes and jungles, perhaps invented for his benefit. The "family of 3" used Cholila as a base for five years without interference. They built a brick house and a country store (now owned by an Arab trader) and put Ćanother North American' in charge.

The locals thought they were peaceable citizens. [48].

1. Chatwin saw that the detective was afraid of the natural aspects of Patagonia. Does Chatwin see that stories of creepy crawlers keep out individuals who are not ready for the rough life of Patagonia? Do people have an internal psychology of exploration or of a desire to have a life of safety?

2. Does Chatwin mirror Butch Cassidy in his desire to have a life of freedom on the road? Does Chatwin feel at odds with the law or at least with mainstream society to leave England and travel throughout South America?

3. What is the reason Chatwin includes the additional information that an Arab owned the brick house used by the fugitive family? Is this another attempt at showing how broad the society of Patagonia is?

4. Chatwin uses a considerable number of dates in his book. Why does Chatwin rely on dating the events of the Story of Butch Cassidy in Chapter 22? What relevance does the dates of Cassidy's first bank robberies and his death have to the story of Patagonia?

United Kingdom In Patagonia Reading and Discussion Questions

Last modified 17 November 2003