The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes



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The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Anonymous's The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Anonymous

Nothing is known about the author who penned this short novel. He or she likely chose to remain anonymous as a self-protective measure, given that the book makes pointed critiques of the Catholic Church, an offense that at the time of the book’s publication would have been punishable by death.
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Historical Context of The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Lazarillo de Tormes was written during the Spanish Inquisition, a time when the rulers of Spain took extreme measures to enforce the sovereignty of the Catholic Church. This initiative resulted in several centuries of violent and systematic suppression of religious minorities (such as Jews, Muslims, and Protestants) who had established sizeable populations throughout Spain. Under the Spanish Inquisition, non-Catholics were forced to convert or were expelled from the country, though often those who refused to convert were killed or burned at the stake. Many of those who converted did so to save their lives but continued to practice their faith in secrecy. Within the church there was an atmosphere of fear, intolerance, and cynicism that gave rise to the forms of hypocrisy that Lazarillo de Tormes satires so sharply. The book was banned by the Office of the Inquisition when it was published.

Other Books Related to The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

The success of Lazarillo de Tormes gave rise to an entire literary genre known as the picaresque novel. The distinguishing mark of this genre is that the story follows a pícaro—a “rogue” or a “rascal,” always someone of low class—instead of a nobleman or a more traditional hero. Other notable picaresque novels include Cervantes’ novel Rinconete y Cortadillo, Voltaire’s Candide, and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Lazarillo de Tormes is also notable because it was one of the first works of its kind to experiment with innovations in form, such as structuring the narrative as though it were a letter written in the first person. Novels written as letters are referred to as epistolary novels. Other noteworthy epistolary novels are Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.
Key Facts about The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes
  • Full Title: The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of His Fortunes and Adversities
  • When Written: Unknown
  • Where Written: Spain
  • When Published: 1554
  • Literary Period: Spanish Literature of the Golden Age
  • Genre: Picaresque novel
  • Setting: 16th century Spain
  • Antagonist: The blind man and the priest
  • Point of View: First-person narrator (Lazaro)

Extra Credit for The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Converso. Some scholars have suggested that the author may have been a converso—a Jew forced to convert to Catholicism under the Inquisition—whose experiences of persecution under the Catholic Church gave him a disaffected view of Christian society.

Success Despite Censorship. Lazarillo de Tormes was added to the Office of the Inquisition’s official Index of Forbidden Books when it was published, but illegal copies of the book were widely circulated throughout Europe and the text was translated into English and French shortly after it was published. By 1573 the Church responded to the book’s popularity by allowing edited versions of the text to circulate, but these versions were heavily censored.