The Secret Miracle
by Jorge Luis Borges
Baron Römerstadt/ Jaroslav Kubin
These names are a bit of a mouthful, we know. So who are these guys? The Baron Römerstadt and Jaroslav Kubin are two characters in Jaromir Hladik's play, The Enemies. Since the summary we get of the play is so brief, these two characters aren't exactly fleshed out. In fact, it might be easier to think of them as foils rather than characters (check out more discussion of this in "Character Role Identification").
Two Bodies, One Mind
Here's the basic gist: the Baron lives in Prague's Castle District, where he fends off the conspiracies of a cast of enemies. He and Kubin are in love with the same woman. Kubin has gone crazy, and now thinks he is Baron Römerstadt. Pretty straightforward, right?
Just one problem: it turns out they're the same person.
Baron Römerstadt is nothing more than one of Jaromir Kubin's delusions – that is, the entire play exists only in Kubin's head. This little twist at the end of the play, where we find out our protagonist isn't as reliable as we thought he was, is a trick used in all sorts of movies. Think – spoiler alert! – The Sixth Sense and Shutter Island. Shmoop loves being tricked this way: it's fun, and it always makes us want to revisit the entire play or movie to see how all the pieces fit together with our new perspective.
Like Author, Like Character
But the Baron and Kubin are more than just a fun little trick. We have a feeling they're supposed to tell us something about their author and his situation:
- First, Kubin's first name is "Jaroslav," which bears a striking similarity to Jaromir's mother's last name, "Jaroslavski." Coincidence? We think not.
- Second, the Baron is a character that exists entirely within the mind of another. He is dreamed up by Kubin, much as Kubin, the Baron, and all of the characters in the play are dreamed up by Jaromir. Aha!
- And finally, the play (in three acts) takes no time at all: in both the first scene and the last, the clock strikes 7. This situation prefigures Jaromir's "secret miracle," which allows him to experience an entire year in his head, while in the outside world no time passes at all.
A character in a story or play can tell us a lot about the author, don't you think? So what does Jaromir tell us about Borges?