Although the genre of “The Captive” is a short story, it works well in this unit as a monologue because it is a superb example of story-telling which is, after all, the oldest form of drama. Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine writer who died in 1986. Like many of his contemporaries in Latin America, Borges felt a strong sense of duty to write about the conflicts of society. In his stories, Borges expresses these conflicts in terms of the family. He explores the limits of reality by asking questions that he does not answer. “The Captive” is a tale of self-discovery told in less than four hundred words, which makes it possible for students to commit to memory.
The narrator begins the story by informing his audience that he is merely repeating a tale that he has heard from others. Some years ago, a boy, living in a frontier town, was abducted by the Indians. Long after the boy’s parents had given up hope of finding their lost son, news of a blue-eyed savage reached them by way of a soldier who had recently returned from Indian territory. The parents, upon locating this blue-eyed savage, find a primitive young man who has lost both the language and customs of his childhood. For reasons not made clear in the story, the young man decides to accompany these strangers. They lead him to their home in the hope that he will recognize the place as his former home. After several tense moments outside the house, the savage races through the yard and entrance way to the kitchen of the house. Without pause or hesitation the savage reaches into the chimney of the fireplace and takes out a small knife chat he had hidden there as a boy. The family is happily reunited again after many years of separation. However, their happiness is not to be long lasting. The family is separated once more because the young savage cannot adopt to the confining ways of his civilized parents and returns to a more natural way of living among the Indians.
The story does not end at this logical point of conclusion. The narrator very cleverly asks us to reflect upon those first emotionally charged moments of recognition and consider the possibilities of what actually transpired in the mind of the savage when the past and the present united. Was the lost son reborn at that instant, only to die once more, or did the savage recognize, as an innocent child would, his true nature.