Spoilers for Tender is the Flesh
Ok, let’s do a quick discussion of the ending and everything that happens with Jasmine, the woman gifted to Marcos.
Oh boy. It was already a bit weird how Marcos treated Jasmine as a mix between a lover and a pet, but I assumed it was going to be a bit of a redemption arc. Despite all the horror he had experienced, Marcos would find love again, he would find a way to communicate with Jasmine more clearly, help her reclaim her humanity, etc.
But nope! He gets her pregnant, then when it’s time for her to deliver, he calls his wife to help and they just steal the baby to replace the one they lost. And there it ends.
I thought this really fit in well with the author’s overall emphasis of the story. It’s not simply a story about the evils of the meat industry or factory farming or a pro-vegan manifesto. Tender is the Flesh really delves into humanity’s ability to quickly adapt, for good and for ill.
We may have felt a bit ill at ease about the things Marcos does for a job, but as readers, we could also find ways to understand and justify it. This is just the way the world works, one needs a job, he has a father to support, and before that a wife and baby. Bazterrica does a good job of showing enough of Marcos’ uneasiness to make us sympathize with him while also understanding why he doesn’t do more. There’s a sense that soon, he’ll be pushed too far and then he’ll take a stand.
Instead, when he reaches that limit, he embraces what society has told him all along. The special meat does not have any rights, it doesn’t think or feel like regular humans do. Even though we can see that Jasmine still has maternal feelings for her child, even though we know she desperately wants her child, Marcos and his wife are more than willing to discard her and use her child for their own needs. They won’t eat him, but they may as well have.