Analyzing the Text
In the first paragraph, the allusion places Balboa and Moses as equals. In doing so, Balboa’s importance rises as he becomes one of the important figures of Christianity and Judaism. It makes him appear larger than life and ‘divine,’ as he goes “alone off to speak with God” (3-4).
The author develops self-awareness in Balboa because it makes him human. In doing so he stops being flat character and becomes 3 dimensional. It gives him desires and ambition with backstory — he wants to be remembered because he was a pig farmer (37-8). In addition it shows how far he’s come, from pig farmer to explorer/ruler of the New World.
We learn where Balboa comes from and how he reached the Americas. We learn that Balboa is violent and aggressive, that he wants power and to be remembered. It suggests that power grows in the individual if given the chance (a chance Balboa receives when he escapes Spain).
This line suggests that civilization is a hard and long process which muddies the ‘pristine slopes’ of uncivilized lands. It further suggests that Balboa is giving himself all the credit for bringing civilization to the Americas, but the language implies that this may not be a good thing.
The many references to dogs, especially violent ones like Leoncico biting the chief’s head off, transform the violence from a human one to an animalistic one. It draws a connection between the brutality of animals and the Spaniards in the New World. The violence feels low and raw.
The point of view chosen by Murray is 3rd person omniscient. This choice allows us to go into Balboa’s mind and know him personally (intimately). It gives us more information about the subject and the story.
The irony is that he has accomplished what he wanted, to be the one to discover the South Sea, but that what he thinks is his crowning glory, will not matter. The author presents his discovery this way to demonstrate the great tragedy of Balboa and the consequences of ambition.
The flash forward shows us the end of Balboa, his fall from power. He is killed for treason, and ends in the dirt (with the dogs). It indicates the theme of this story which is that power does not come for free.