A Critical and Literary Analysis of “Tales of Power” by Carlos Castaneda

Point of View

In his book, Tales of Power, Carlos Castaneda uses the first person to narrate the last few years of Carlos’ apprenticeship under his enlightened teacher Don Juan, and under his benefactor Don Genaro.

The story shows how Carlos evolved from a questioning and often frustrated apprentice, into an enchanted and enlightened sorcerer. Carlos must train himself out of his old ways to become the warrior that he aspires to be. Carlos goes through many tests, tricks and trials before he can completely “see” the totality of oneself.

Setting

Tales of Power is set in the 1970’s in Los Angeles and also in the mountains and deserts of Northwestern and Central Mexico.

The desert brings a sense of the supernatural and surreal world of the sorcerer, with its high rocky peaks, dusty gravel roads, high pointy cliffs, and it’s flat barren mesas. The power spots are most abundant in these areas, and always bringing excitement, power and bewilderment to Carlos. The darkness and serenity of the night amplifies the mystic aura the surrounds this separate world.

In Mexico City there is the constant hustle and bustle of everyday life, which eerily relates to the world of the sorcerer. Carlos learns many important lessons in supermarkets, on benches, in parks, and surrounded by ordinary humans. Much of the ordinary life adds to the anxiety that Carlos feel while indulging in his lesson notes.

The setting brings a symbolic feel of the warrior himself, with its untamed and sometimes harsh beauty. The image of the horizon is often used to symbolize the setting of Carlos’ apprenticeship and the dawning of a new sorcerer.

Characterization

The two main characters in Tales of Power are Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan Matus.

Carlos Castaneda is portrayed as a questioning and perplexed apprentice. Although he does not understand everything on the first try, he is eager to learn the ways of the warrior. Carlos is drained of both his physical and mental power as he searches the depths of eternity for enlightenment. By turning off his internal dialogue Carlos permits his nagual to fly free, and he experiences things that he never knew were within him. The nagual throws everything that Carlos knows into chaos. Carlos likes to reason with everything, but there is no reasoning with the nagual. Eventually Carlos becomes one with the earth by loving and respecting all of it’s power.

Carlos’ magnificent teacher is Don Juan Matus, the powerful and respected sorcerer. Don Juan often tricks Carlos into learning things that he would otherwise have never been capable of learning. Don Juan continually mocks and jests with Carlos to loosen him up so that he can learn, instead of staying closed minded.

The characteristics given to Don Juan are constant through out the entire book. Don Juan carries the same whimsical and lighthearted personality through out his time with Carlos.

Theme

The most blatant theme is found while Carlos continues down the road to complete enlightenment. As Carlos travels the road to enlightenment he looses the part of himself that wants to reason and question everything. Carlos, under the guardianship of Don Juan, flourished in the ways of the warrior, and learns that the earth is the most important necessity. The earth gives power and has ultimate control over everything.

Carlos learned most of all to love the earth. The earth gives care and love to those who love her. The earth will help and bring joy to those who love her. The earth gives and outlet to sadness, and soothes those who show her affection. Most of all the earth gives freedom to those who care for her.

Plot

The plot of Tales of Power has a penetrating structure to it, which lends itself to the thought process which is involved in the warrior’s philosophy. In the story Carlos is constantly confined due to his need for reasoning, and this is only broken when Don Juan can trick Carlos into not reasoning.

The book consists of the high-strung but loving teacher/ pupil relationship that exists between Carlos and Don Juan. Don Juan continues to press points that Carlos must be rid of the reasoning, however hard and tedious it may seem. Carlos is cast into a world where the tonal is nonexistent, and the nagual reins supreme, and he is made to defend and protect himself. To survive Carlos must not only learn about reality, and how unrealistic it actually is. In becoming a sorcerer Carlos must learn to disband everything that he had ever known to be true, he must not question, and he must follow the ways of the warrior.

Carlos is like a small infant in the world of the nagual, he knows nothing. He carefully attempts to discover what this world has instore for him. Carlos struggles to remain constant with this world; he must suppress his urge to question.

By stopping his internal dialogue Carlos has learned to enable himself to concentrate to the point of entering divergent universes. Carlos begins to be able to conquer amazing feats, he can travel the city in a few minutes, and he can see illusions that are hidden to other people.

Carlos learns to watch every move, pick up every detail, and notice everything. He learns to capture, keep and use power to his benefit. After practicing his powers and toning them Don Juan and Don Genero decide that Carlos is able to face the world on his own. As they stand out on the cliff and say their good byes, Carlos realizes how much these two men meant to him, and how he will miss them.