Summary of 'Hopscotch' by Julio Cortázar

Summary of 'Hopscotch' by Julio Cortázar

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Author Bio

Julio Florencio Cortázar, was born in Ixelles Belgium in 1914, when his father was serving as a commercial attaché at the Argentine embassy in Belgium. That was the reason for his birth in that country.

Ending the First World War, his parents managed to reach Switzerland, thanks to the German nationality of Julio's grandmother. Later they entered Barcelona Spain and resided there for a year and a half. Four years later they returned to Argentina, in the company of their little and only sister, Ofelia.

The rest of his childhood was spent in Banfield, south of Buenos Aires. At the age of six, she was abandoned by her father and never contacted him again.

Due to frequent health problems, Julio spent a lot of time in bed and his best company was reading of all kinds. from works by Jules Verne, to Edgar Allan Poe. At just nine years old, he had already written his first novel and some short stories and sonnets. Graduated as teacher in 1932 and in 1935 he began his career in Philosophy and Letters which never ended.

He worked as a teacher in various cities in Argentina but in the 1940s, due to political problems, he had to leave his position as a university professor and began to work for literary magazines publishing articles and stories. He graduated as an English and French translator and traveled to Paris work as a UNESCO translator.

In 1951 he settled permanently in Paris. Got married twice, the first with an Argentine translator, named Aurora Fernández and the second with the American writer Carol Dunlop.

In 1981 without renouncing his Argentine nationality, he received the French nationality from the president François Mitterrand.

In 1963 he published Hopscotch, his masterpiece, despite being also a prominent author of the magical realism.

He died on February 12, 1984, in Paris France.

Summary of ‘Hopscotch’

Considered by its author a contranovelaHopscotch stands out for its social and emotional pragmatism. Published in 1963, it is one of the central axes of the artistic awakening in Latin America, in literary matters. It is a surrealist work, despite the various styles that converge in it and the elaborate plot, which is only perceived through the psychological state of each reader. Thats why he hopscotch argument it is difficult to translate into linear shape.

We see the interrelation between the microcosm and the macrocosm of the individual, posed in a novel that, according to the same author, may be autobiographical. When on one occasion he was asked what the semantic load of Hopscotch was for him, he replied “In some ways it is the experience of a lifetime and the attempt to put it into writing”.

Structural scheme of Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar

Plot synthesis:

In a disparate union Horacio Oliveira Y Lucy (known as La Maga) live a torrid and passionate romance, the magician loves him, she is really in love, however, he maintains a distant attitude, does not want to get involved in the relationship despite feeling a strong feeling towards her. The cause of this detachment is perhaps based on the intellectual level disparity; Horacio has a complete education, while the Magician Because he has a low educational background, he can hardly intervene in the long intellectual discussions that his lover has with other colleagues in his environment.

They both belong to a club called the Snake Club, where they regularly meet with a group of friends. La Maga is outgoing, naive, tender and adventurous; qualities that attract Oliveira. The Snake Club is made up of a group of musicians, artists and writers, who spend their time drinking and listening to Jazz music. They discuss various topics, but La Maga cannot follow the thread due to her poor cultural preparation. Nevertheless, the club shows him affection and condescension.

Division into chapters:

Hopscotch is made up of 155 chapters, intertwined in such a way that its linear reading is difficult. The author himself establishes a methodology to read the novel, but the decision always rests with the reader.

Parts into which Hopscotch is divided

First part:

"On the side over there"; the development of the story begins in Paris, Horacio wanders through the port in search of his beloved, the Uruguayan Lucy, better known as the magician They are regular visitors to the Snake Club where a group of friends appear: Ronald, Babs, Perico, Gregorovius, Wong.

They have lived together for months, but a controversy arises because Lucia has to bring her baby with her, Rocamadour and Oliveira does not want to live with him, they have a fight and he goes off to roam the streets, witnessing how a car runs over an old man.

He enters a theater, accompanies the actress troubled by problems with her partner, and when offering to find her a hotel, the woman slaps him. He cries, returns to La Maga, but finds an old suitor in her company, sits with them, to talk, and a man interrupts constantly hitting with his cane, at that moment Horacio notices the baby deathShe does not communicate it immediately and when the mother finally notices the death of the child, chaos breaks out, she seeks consolation in her lover, but he does not offer it.

After the funeral, she desapears leaving him plunged into mental chaos, which in the future will lead him to madness. He looks for her in Paris and Montevideo, without finding her. This part is made up of chapters 1 through 36.

Second part

From the side here”The action takes place in Argentina after reviewing Manolo Traveler, Horacio's old friend who resides in Buenos Aires in the company of his wife Talita; This marriage is very close and the news of Oliveira's arrival is not very pleasant for Manolo. However, he receives him at the dock, but Horacio mistakes Talita for La Maga, finally decides to go live with Gekrepten, a girlfriend from the past in a room in an adjoining building.

He tries to make a living as a cloth seller to no avail. Talita convinces her husband to employ him in a circus where they work.

Horacio's obsession is accentuated in such a way that Traveler loses sleep, although he does not doubt the fidelity of his wife, he does not feel comfortable with the flirtations of Oliveira who every day believes more than talita is La Maga.

He tries to penetrate the private life of the couple, but cannot, already showing mental disorders, Oliveira conceives the idea of ​​building a bridge between the windows of the adjoining buildings so that Talita can cross it. When he finishes it, Talita refuses to participate and does not cross the bridge. Ferraguto, the owner of the circus, sells it and buy a psychiatric hospital, to which he takes Horacio, Talita and Traveler to work.

Talita works as a pharmacist while Horacio and Traveler work as assistants and night watchmen.

The three become regular visitors to the pharmacy and morgue, where the corpses of patients are kept and the beer is chilled. The hospital is gloomy, sad and dark. Horacio becomes obsessed with the idea that someone wants to kill him, possibly Traveler.

He mistakes Talita for La Maga playing Hopscotch; he feels guilty for being so attracted to it. Finally, Horacio, after being rejected by Talita, goes into her room and decides to jump out the window, his friend Manolo avoids him at the moment, but the reading suggests that in the end he jumps into the void. This second part goes from chapter 37 to 56.

Third part

"From other sides": It is made up of the chapters that the same actor describes as "dispensable". Its structure is based on materials such as newspaper clippings, book citations, annotations, letters, manuscripts, poems, encyclopedic notes, reflections and others, where the protagonist's psychological profile is exposed in a deeply analytical way. This part provides answers to various questions raised throughout the other two.

From here we get to know the outcome of Horacio's suicide attempt, he is admitted to the hospital, and when he heals he is fired by the boss along with his friends. We also know who Morelli is, who in the end turns out to be the old man Horacio saw hit by a car at the beginning.

Let us remember that Morelli was an exiled and elderly writer who was in very serious condition in the hospital when he was rescued by the Snake Club. Although it is paradoxical, it is the longest part of the novel, it covers from chapter 57 to 155.

Relationship of the Title of the novel "Hopscotch" with the plot

"Hopscotch" is a children's game with different versions; however, it follows the same structure everywhere it is practiced. It only takes a grid, a small smooth stone the tip of a shoe and the players. Cortázar, gives a symbolism to each of the boxes, applying it to the emotional and spiritual state of the protagonist, Horacio Oliveira.

The stone represents the soul, that advances from box to box, from earth to heaven. He himself expresses it in his work as follows: “A sidewalk, a stone, a shoe and a beautiful chalk drawing, preferably colored. At the top is the sky, below is the Earth, it is very difficult to reach the sky with the pebble, it is almost always miscalculated and the stone comes out of the drawing. "

From your point of view, The life is a game where the satisfaction of all kinds of needs is sought, such as go from earth to heaven, but it is very difficult to achieve it despite the simple implements that are required. This incessant search is reflected in the behavior of the protagonist, who is never satisfied and who, despite the need to love La Maga, present in his entire being, never defined him and lost her.

Form of presentation of the story

Type of narration according to the narrator's position.

Due to his style it is impossible to determine with certainty the type of narrator that predominates in Hopscotch, a detailed analysis would be the subject of another specific work on the subject. However, it is possible to identify three types of narrator:

First person narrator:

The protagonist narrates the events from a personal point of view “And I must say that he fully trusted the chance of having met you. That I will never try to forget you, and that, if I did, I would not succeed "

Third person narrator:

The third person narrator knows the feelings and the mood of the characters “Etienne and Perico discussed a possible explanation of the world through painting and words. Boring, Oliveira put his arm around La Maga's waist "

Participating narrator:

Without reaching the degree of a protagonist, he recounts the events narrated from a personal attitude "Oliveira lit another cigarette, and his minimal doing forced him to smile wryly and tease on the spot "

Sequence of events in Hopscotch

The definition of beginning, middle and end; it does not fit in the analysis of this literary work. Each reader is free to interpret it according to his own perspective; even so, a retrospective narration counted from Present. The beginning of the novel occurs when Oliveira is on the bridge in search of La Maga, but a series of events have already happened that determine the plot of the novel: how they met, founding of the Serpent Club, death of Rocamadour. I also know narrates in the present much of the novel and the part corresponding to the chapters "Expendable”Is a mixture of both times.


Main or protagonists:

  • Horacio Oliveira, protagonist.
  • Lucia (La Maga), protagonist.


  • Rocamadour, is the son of La Maga.
  • Talita is the wife of Oliveira's Argentine friend.
  • Manuel Traveler, Oliveira's friend and Talita's husband.

Secondary: With amazing skill, Cortázar introduced a series of secondary characters to Hopscotch, with roles interspersed in the plot.

  • Ronald: represents an American musician.
  • Perico Romero: He is a great Spanish scholar.
  • Etienne: painter, admirer of all avant-garde manifestations.
  • Pola: she is a former lover of Horacio Oliveira.
  • Wong: friend of Gregorovius.
  • Ossip Gregorovius: Horacio's intellectual friend, manifestly in love with La Maga.
  • Guymono: friend of Etienne.
  • Madame Irene: she is the nurse of the Maga's baby.
  • Madame Léonie: she is a clairvoyant.
  • Berthe Trépat.
  • Valentine.
  • Gekrepten: she is Oliveira's girlfriend with whom he went to live on his return to Argentina.
  • Ferraguto: he was the owner of the circus where Traveler, Talita and Horacio worked; then he sold it and bought the mental clinic, where the three friends went to work.
  • Dr. Ovejero: doctor who worked in the mental clinic.
  • Babs: Ronald's girlfriend. He is a ceramist.
  • Guy Monod: Etienne's friend.

Referential: Cortázar mentions in a referential way a series of musicians, intellectuals, artists of different kinds; in addition to the neighbors and workers who do not intervene in the work.

Atmosphere in Hopscotch

Physical environment:

Determined by the geographic location where the events occur. It appears clearly demarcated in the novel, the first part takes place in Paris:

“We used to go out there hunting for shadows, to eat potato chips at Faubourg St Denis, to kiss next to the barges of the canal Saint Martin”.

The second part takes place in Argentina:

“At first Traveler had criticized him for his mania of finding everything wrong in Buenos Aires, of treating the city as a corseted whore, but Oliveira explained to him and Talita that in those criticisms there was such a quantity of love that only two morons like them they could misunderstand their complaints. They ended up realizing that he was right, that Oliveira could not hypocritically reconcile himself with Buenos Aires, and that he was now much further away from the country than when he was in Europe ”.

Psychological environment:

It is defined by the psychological aspect that predominates in the work, which is defined by the emotional attitude of the characters. In Hopscotch, the characters are torn between an emotionally diffuse environment; while some seem to be encapsulated in their own world, others struggle to interact and include others in their environment. Such is the case of Mrs. Gutusso, Traveler and Talita. As for the protagonists, they give the novel a festive and gloomy psychological atmosphere. Let's see some examples:

And look, we barely knew each other and life was already plotting what was necessary to meticulously meet each other. As you did not know how to hide, I immediately realized that to see yourself as I wanted it was necessary to start by closing your eyes, and then first things like yellow stars (moving in a velvet jelly), then red jumps of humor and hours, I entered gradual in a Maga-world that was clumsiness and confusion, but also ferns with the signature of the spider Klee, the Miró circus ”.

But how beautiful you were at the window, with the gray sky perched on one cheek, your hands holding the book, your mouth always a little greedy, your eyes doubtful. There was so much time lost in you, you were in such a way the mold of what you could have been under other stars, that taking you in your arms and making love to you became too tender a task, too close to the pious work

Novel theme

A theme for Hopscotch? Very difficult task, it is they mix the love and the madness; the humor and the art; the freedom and the submission, in a profuse prose, recreated in such a way that the central axis of the conflict is not differentiated, nor the denouement that identifies the end. It is an open, participatory novel, and made for each reader to interpret it in their own way. Even the way to read it is a personal decision. To pigeonhole Hopscotch in a topic would be arbitrary. However; an inordinate passion between the protagonists is evidenced, which is maintained throughout the novel. Horacio Oliveira keeps the figure of La Maga in the reader's mind, through his monologues and evocations, even his anguish not have it, who sees it in other women, as in the case of Traveler's wife, Talita.


Type of language expressed in Hopscotch.

It presents a fluid and cultured language, very similar to the traditional literary one. It is loaded with resources in an expressive mosaic typical of Spanish-speaking authors. The narration is influenced by the French cultural environment and undoubtedly, this contributes various elements, typical of a careful literary language.

However, there is an inclusion of specific phonetic contributions from local Spanish, such as, “voseo”, “yeísmo”, “seseo” and everything related to the lexical daily life of the author's native country: to prime the mate, use the pavita, go to the bowling alley, sing tangos; whose lyrics are colloquial and local.

There is the distortion of language, from the semantic, phonetic and lexical point of view. In conclusion, it can be affirmed that the language of Hopscotch is atypical and diversified, without falling into the colloquial or the entirely cultured.

Expressive forms present in Hopscotch


But she would not be on the bridge now. Her thin, translucent-skinned face would peek into old portals in the Marais ghetto, perhaps she was chatting with a potato chip vendor or eating a hot sausage on the boulevard of Sevastopol..


She was dragging one leg, it was distressing to see her climb up, standing on each step to climb the diseased leg much thicker than the other, repeating the maneuver to the fourth floor. It smelled soft, of soup, on the carpet in the hall someone had spilled a blue liquid that drew like a pair of wings ”.


“- You could not say - you think too much before doing anything - I start from the principle that reflection must precede foolish action - You start from the beginning - said La Maga - How complicated. - You are like a witness, you are the one who goes to the museum and looks at the paintings.”

Featured literary resources in Hopscotch


“When walking the slight play of the muscles was felt like a monotonous and persistent language

You trembled pure and free like a flame, like a river of mercury


Where will you be, where will we be from today, two points in an inexplicable universe

"Between La Maga and I grows a reed of words

I was afraid that you would read some truth about me in your hand,because you were always a terrible mirror, a terrible replay machine


He managed to extract out of nowhere a pair of brown shoes that he had worn in Olavarría in 1940. They had rubber studs, very thin soles and "when it rained the water would enter my soul"

Sensory imaging:

They are divided into: visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory and taste.

Visual images:

"A delicate, green ghost was drawing against his skin"

"The pink and black birds swirl, dancing sweetly in a small portion of air"

Tactile imaging:

"That too could be an explanation, an arm squeezing a thin and hot waist"

"I touch your mouth, with a finger I touch the edge of your mouth, I am drawing it as if it came out of my hand"

Hearing images:

"A cornet broke away from the rest and dropped the first two notes of the song"

"The quill crackled horribly, something began to move deep down like layers and layers of cotton between the voice and the ears"

Olfactory images:

"The mossy parallelepiped smelling of vodka and wax candles, wet clothes and the remains of stew."

"Of houses where the smell of printing ink, ends the joy of garlic"

Gustatory images:

"And there is only one saliva, and only one ripe fruit flavor"

"Horacio is like guava sweet"

Humanization of inanimate objects:

“Argentina had to be seized by the side of shame, look for the hidden blush of a century of usurpations of all kinds as its essayists explained so well, and for that the best thing was to show it in some way that it could not be taken seriously as I intended ”.

The analysis of Hopscotch is an approach to Cortázar's feelings, the one that allowed him to make this work of Literature that breaks with the canons established by other authors. This metaphor of children's play "hopscotch”, Present throughout the novel, constitutes the tireless search for happiness in the human being. Reaching heaven, the personal satisfaction that peace would give us, is not possible in this life.

Consulted bibliography

Cortázar, Julio. Hopscotch. Editorial Sudamericana. Buenos Aires, Argentina. 1963.
Sambrano Urdaneta, Oscar. Literary appreciation. Graphics from Editorial Text. Caracas, 1971.
Classroom Encyclopedia. School Orientation Course. Editorial Cultural, S.A. Madrid Spain.

Video: Entrevista a Julio Cortázar