The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The sheer multitude of characters serves to emphasize the novel’s focus on the interplay between characters and events. The short sections of the novel move from character to character. Sometimes the point of view changes even within the short sections. Nearly all these characters are developed fully, and they make up a wide array of bizarre, sometimes perverse individuals. The characters are clustered, and each cluster is eventually tied to other clusters of characters; this movement unravels the narrative in the novel, emphasizing each event’s and person’s interplay in the novel’s nonstop motion.
Though no character dominates the novel, Sterling emerges as its conscience. Sterling, appearing near the beginning and at the end of the book, is unique among the characters in that he enters Tucson by accident, wandering into town with no real purpose, and then leaves it behind, taking only the awareness he has gained. His eventual gain of understanding for the endurance of the Earth and the importance of tribal spirits is the very heart of the novel. At the beginning, Sterling is immersed in the white system, and his self-delusion is rooted in his European thinking, symbolized by his obsession with crime magazines. Sterling’s fascination with the white image of “Geronimo” (his favorite “criminal”) illustrates his inability to understand reality in a tribal sense. Silko educates the reader about Geronimo’s “true” existence, as Sterling should have been educated, through the oral stories of an...
(The entire section is 624 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Almanac of the Dead Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Lecha (LAY-chay), the mother of Ferro, and sister of Zeta. She is a celebrated psychic and keeper of the sacred Lakota text of the almanac. Initially in drug-dependent retirement, she ends up identifying herself with visionary, militant ecologists. Her complicated evolution is one of the novel’s main structures.
Sterling, the gardener in Lecha’s compound, exiled from his Pueblo home on mistaken grounds of cultural violation. His safe return to his native place is an understated counterpart of the more global nature of Lecha’s ultimate commitment. He attempts to retain his integrity and self-respect.
Seese, Sterling’s opposite number in Lecha’s household. She has a guilty past. If Sterling’s problems have ethnic origins, Seese’s originate in her gender and in her helpless involvement with an exploitative male world of drugs and sex.
Menardo (may-NAHR-doh), a Mexican entrepreneur. He illustrates the destructive and dehumanizing nature of personal greed and the international economic order that fosters it. His rise and fall has darkly comic as well as more sinister elements. His story can be read as a parodic treatment of the novel’s other shape-changing motifs.
David, a photographer, Seese’s lover and the father of her child. His reckless treatment of both these dependents has its moral payoff in his involvement with pornography and Nazi-style futurists. These developments are not only a critique of David’s disregard for Seese and the subsequent obscene exploitation of their child but also contrast vividly with the nurturing character of Lecha’s commitment.
List of Characters
Al: Seese’s stepfather.
Albert Fish: “The Long Island Cannibal.” He is a notorious wealthy criminal of whom Beaufrey was enamored as a child.
Alegría: Señorita Alegría Martinez-Soto. A young, beautiful, and talented Venezuelan architect, she is Menardo’s second wife.
Amalia: Yoeme’s daughter, and mother of the twins Zeta and Lecha. She dies when the twins are fourteen years old.
Angelita La Escapía: A Mayan revolutionary, head of The Revolutionary Army of the People, a group dedicated to taking back the land for the indigenous people. She has a brief affair with Bartolomeo.
Angelo: Gangster Max Blue’s nephew from New Jersey. He is in charge of the Blue family’s racetracks and horses.
Arne: Judge Arne. He is a corrupt Federal District Court judge who engages in bestiality with his prize Basset hounds. Leah Blue pays him to issue favorable judgments in her water rights lawsuits with the Nevada Indians so that she can dig wells on sacred Indian land for her planned community—Venice, Arizona.
Aunt Marie: Sterling’s Aunt. She and her sister Nora raised Sterling on the Laguna Indian Reservation.
Awa Gee: A Korean computer genius and hacker employed by Zeta to collect information from her rival arms dealers. He is planning a cyber-takeover of the world.
Barefoot Hopi: A Hopi Indian that speaks for the spirits. He wants to unite all the indigenous people so that they can take back their land.
Bartolomeo: An arrogant, sexist Cuban communist adviser to the indigenous revolutionaries. He has affairs with Alegría and Angelita La Escapía. He is eventually executed by The Revolutionary Army of the People.
Beaufrey: A wealthy gay producer of pornographic films that feature violent and bizarre torture, sex change operations, snuff movies, and autopsies on living human beings. He is also David’s lover, and Serlo’s friend and business partner.
Bill Blue: Uncle Bill and Max Blue’s brother. He has raised Angelo Blue but refuses to be a part of the crime family.
Bingo: Younger son of Max and Leah Blue. A cocaine addict, he is in charge of the family pinball and vending machine franchises in El Paso, Texas.
Brito: “Old Brito.” He is Calabazas’ father-in-law.
Calabazas: A Mexican-Indian drug dealer and arms smuggler. He does business with Zeta. He is married to Sarita but is in love with her sister, Liria.
Cherie: A friend of Seese’s and a stripper at The Stage Coach Bar. She works for Tiny.
Clinton: An African-American veteran and former Green Beret with one foot. He works with Roy-Rambo as Trigg’s night watchmen and is secretly assembling his own faction within Roy-Rambo’s Army of the Homeless
Cucha: Zeta and Lecha’s aunt, their mother’s sister. She dies from rancid kidney stew.
David: A bisexual photographer from San Diego. He is in love with Beaufrey but has an affair with Seese so that he can have a child, Monte. He is also Eric’s former lover.
De Guzman: A Spanish invader of Mexico who made lamp shades out of Yaqui Indian skin and forced Indian women to sit on sharp-pointed sticks. He then piled sacks of silver on their laps until the sticks impaled them. Yoeme claims that the “Destroyer” Hitler copied his ideas from De Guzman.
Dr. Gris: Menardo’s family doctor. He performs abortions on young girls that Menardo has impregnated and then blackmails Menardo.
“G”: David’s art agent. He displays David’s gruesome photos of Eric’s suicide in his art gallery.
Guzman: Grandpa Guzman, Zeta and Lecha’s grandfather, Yoeme’s husband. He is more concerned with getting along with other whites than protecting the rights of indigenous peoples as he promised Yoeme’s family when he married her. Yoeme blames him for the many Yaqui deaths at the hands of whites who have stolen their land.
Dr. Guzman: A doctor who works for the Mexican police department.
Dr. V. M.: Beaufrey’s childhood psychiatrist.
El Feo: Twin brother of Tacho-Wacah. Along with Tacho-Wacah, he leads the Army of Justice and Redistribution. He is also Angelita La Escapía’s lover.
Eric: Seese’s gay friend from San Diego and David’s lover. Eric commits suicide when he realizes David does not love him anymore.
Father Lopez: A village priest that helps Uncle Federico arrange to molest Zeta and Lecha when they are young girls.
“Failed Geologist”: Lecha and Zeta’s father. He leaves his daughters the ranch in the Tucson mountains when he dies.
Federico: One of Lecha’s and Zeta’s uncles, their mother’s brother. He molests the girls as children.
Ferro: Lecha’s gay son. He is abandoned as a baby and raised by Zeta. Ferro has an affair with...
(The entire section is 2009 words.)
Sterling is a Laguna Indian who is introduced in “Part I: The United States.” The novel begins and ends with Sterling, and his story provides the framework for the other stories that eventually intersect with each other throughout the novel. He leaves the reservation to join the Army and after World War II, he works off the reservation for quite some time. He returns to the reservation to work on the uranium mine that is being dug on tribal land and to care for the elderly aunt who raised him. A movie also is being filmed on the reservation and the tribal elders appoint Sterling to keep an eye on the film crew to make sure they do not film any sacred Indian relics, especially the giant...
(The entire section is 8180 words.)