The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Themes and Colors
Truth, Deception, and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Social and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Poverty, Crime, and Violence Theme Icon
Mercy and Compassion Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Through telling his life story, Lazaro portrays the society he lives in as one in which deception is the essence of every interaction. Born to one thief and then adopted by another, it is clear from the outset that young Lazaro belongs to the class of people who depend on lying and cheating to survive. Leaving his family at a young age to fend for himself, Lazaro goes on to serve many masters who exploit…

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At the time in which Lazarillo de Tormes was written, the supremely powerful Catholic Church had begun the Spanish Inquisition, a violent campaign to purge religious diversity from Spain. The novel critiques the moral authority of the Catholic Church to embark on such a project by exposing the gap between the professed values and the actual behavior of Spanish Catholics.

The author uses the form of the picaresque novel—a genre characterized by plots composed of…

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Lazarillo de Tormes was a unique book at the time of its publication because it portrayed the world realistically through the eyes of a poor boy rather than a nobleman or a more conventional hero. The book’s frank depiction of how crime and violence are interwoven into the fabric of the lives of poor people was shocking to the Spanish readership of the 16th century. Ultimately, the author represents the crimes committed by the poor…

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Though instances of mercy and compassion in the text are few and far between, these moments serve as important guideposts for the reader. Characters acting with mercy and compassion help the reader to understand the richness of the social critique being leveled throughout the text because they provide a rare example of virtue in a world otherwise rife with cruelty and vice. Virtually the only figures that are portrayed as compassionate in Lazaro’s story…

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Lazaro’s story, marked by milestones of learning and loss of innocence, is a story of a boy growing older. But Lazaro’s process of coming of age is unlike many other examples in literature, distinguished above all by the character’s development of a deeply cynical worldview and his loss of a sense of morality. His mother’s parting words—a prayer that Lazaro should “learn his worth”—loom over the entire story. If it is true that Lazaro…

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