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The Library of Babel

The Library of Babel

by Jorge Luis Borges

The Library of Babel Analysis

Literary Devices in The Library of Babel

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Setting

Okay, so the setting is kind of a big deal in this story. It's in the title (see "What's Up With the Title?"), the first line, and the first several paragraphs. The Library works as a symbol (see "...

Narrator Point of View

Practically this whole story is told in the first person, from the point of view of a central narrator – an inhabitant of the Library who writes in order to narrate the Library's history, and in...

Genre

One of the reasons we love Borges so much is that he combines the fun of science fiction with the depth of philosophical literature. Okay, so this story is a little light on the "science" part of s...

Tone

Borges packs a wide range of ideas into this short story, and his tone shifts depending on what he's talking about. When he presents us with the concept of the Library, he's objective and matter-of...

Writing Style

Borges' narrator proceeds according to a very logical agenda. His description of the universe is accompanied by the introduction of a few basic rules, or "axioms," describing how things work. After...

What's Up With the Title?

Curiously enough, the word "Babel" doesn't appear anywhere in the story. Which means it must be another example of Borges' use of "intertextuality." Intertextuality occurs when one text or narrativ...

What's Up With the Epigraph?

By this art you may contemplate the variation of the 23 letters...—Anatomy of Melancholy, Pt. 2, Sec. II, Mem. IVLike so many references in Borges' stories, this one has a whole bunch of implicat...

What's Up With the Ending?

This story ends with a footnote. That's right, a puny little footnote. But there's something you should know about footnotes in Borges' stories: they're a BIG deal. The thing is, we usually think o...

Tough-o-Meter

We're going to come right out and say it: Jorge Luis Borges was a genius. Keeping up with his lightning-quick brain isn't always the easiest thing in the world, but the payoff is incredible. Borges...

Plot Analysis

"The Library of Babel" is a story about ideas – it's not really about the plot. In fact, there's not much plot to speak of. Using a Classic Plot Analysis to interpret it is kind of a stretch, but...

Trivia

From 1937 to 1946, Borges worked as a librarian at a branch of the Municipal Library of Buenos Aires. His stint as a government employee came to an end when the Peronists, a political party that Bo...

Steaminess Rating

Yeah, we know, we like the whole "sexy librarian" look, too. But trust us, that's not what this story is about. Our narrator is a fairly old dude with other things on his mind. In fact, it's diffic...

Allusions

Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy (Epigraph)Basilides (7)Bede (7)Tacitus (7)Bonaventura Cavalieri (Footnote 4)

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