Signs Preceding the End of the World

by

Yuri Herrera

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The Old Man Character Analysis

A Mexican man who guides Makina to the baseball stadium where she hands Mr. Aitch’s package to Mr. P and helps her avoid detection by the police during her journey there. He also gives her an old address of her brother’s, which turns out to literally be empty: there is no house there, just a large hole in the ground. Like Makina, the Old Man appears to get involved with Mr. Aitch and Mr. P’s criminal network out of necessity and convenience, not out of malice or for profit. Although he has lived north of the border for 50 years and seems to have a long history working in the trafficking network, the Old Man insists he is “just passing through” the United States, which reflects the sense of rootlessness and unbelonging that confronts many immigrants. In an important monologue, the Old Man uses the American obsession with baseball—a sport that can appear senseless to those unfamiliar with it—as a metaphor for American exceptionalism and hostility towards outsiders. While in some ways a version of the archetypal wise old man character who guides a young protagonist toward their goals, Herrera’s Old Man also undermines and inverts this archetype, as his form of wisdom is unsuited for his environment. He is profoundly unsure about his place in the world as a result, and he ultimately leads Makina to a dead end.

The Old Man Quotes in Signs Preceding the End of the World

The Signs Preceding the End of the World quotes below are all either spoken by The Old Man or refer to The Old Man. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the And Other Stories edition of Signs Preceding the End of the World published in 2015.
Chapter 4 Quotes

The stadium loomed before them. So, what do they use that for?
They play, said the old man. Every week the anglos play a game to celebrate who they are. He stopped, raised his cane and fanned the air. One of them whacks it, then sets off like it was a trip around the world, to every one of the bases out there, you know the anglos have bases all over the world, right? Well the one who whacked it runs from one to the next while the others keep taking swings to distract their enemies, and if he doesn’t get caught he makes it home and his people welcome him with open arms and cheering.

Related Characters: The Old Man (speaker), Makina
Page Number: 59-60
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Old Man Character Timeline in Signs Preceding the End of the World

The timeline below shows where the character The Old Man appears in Signs Preceding the End of the World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: The Obsidian Mound
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
...corner where people are supposed to meet her and “tell [her] where to take it.” An old man outside a flower store tells her to “go clean up” inside the shop. She washes... (full context)
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Inequality, and Social Change Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
The old man begins to tell Makina about her brother, who is “alive and kicking,” but “changed.” Makina’s... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Place Where the Wind Cuts like a Knife
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
The address the old man gave Makina names another city, but there is no gap between that one and the... (full context)