Mallea excels in portraying “closed” characters who are at war with themselves or somehow imprisoned within the confines of their own consciousness. The inner drama of Ágata Cruz is revealed and symbolized in her name (which translates literally as “agate cross”). What is cold and hard in Ágata is in conflict with her passion and her need for sacrifice. Ágata’s passivity, her limited emotional development, her narrowness of perspective, and, above all, her awkwardness and shyness, are at war with the intensity of her need to live life to the utmost and to make life meaningful. The grim circumstances of her life and the predisposition of her own nature doom her to defeat, but Mallea succeeds in making the reader identify with Ágata’s struggle and empathize with her. In spite of the melodramatic contrast between Ágata’s “extraordinary beauty” and her withdrawn and pessimistic character, Mallea succeeds in making Ágata a believable heroine.
Ágata is described in terms of death, recalling the parched landscape of the beginning: “While in bed, her slender body at rest, her face white against a bedspread a thousand years old, her eyes devoid of inner scenery, her limp fingers relaxed over the material they rested on, everything in her suggested a corpse, with the exception of that knot which from the depth of her being still insisted on having hidden rights.” In a conversation with Sotero, Ágata inadvertently reveals her inner...
(The entire section is 450 words.)