The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The players in Christopher Unborn are not real people and not intended to be perceived as such. Instead, they are a miscellaneous collection of abstractions, allegories, caricatures, freaks, comic-strip personalities, and stereotypes. They have slight individuality apart from the psychological peculiarities or ideological attitudes they are intended to represent, and they lack universality because of the distinctly Mexican ambiance in which they are portrayed. Christopher himself, truculent and timorous, worries chiefly about his physical comfort in his mother’s womb and seeks maximum satisfaction in sleep. As narrator, he affirms that the reader will know all there is to know about Angel at the beginning of the novel and only a little bit about Angeles at its end. True to the human condition, they engage in a constant struggle between what they are and what they would like to be. Angeles loves Angel so much that she adopts all his leftist ideology, but when he turns into a “conservative rebel,” she retains her liberal outlook so that they may complement each other. Although Angel is the most prominent persona—in the sense that he takes up the greatest amount of space in the novel—he is neither hero, protagonist, nor antihero but an ordinary egoistical opportunist. He suffers the dismal effects of the Mexican government rather than initiating vigorous action of his own.

Uncle Homero represents the greed and corruption of the nation’s politicians, seeking wealth and control by promoting the interests of foreign capitalists and catering to popular nationalistic, religious, and ethnic prejudices. Completely unprincipled, he is diabolical in his schemes and strategies, even trying to cheat Angel out of his father’s inheritance. Uncle Benitez, superficially less invidious, occasionally protects Angel and espouses various popular causes, but he is consumed by the same drive for power.

Several episodes involve a rock band of four members, two of whom at times lose their human form, one becoming invisible and the other assuming the form of an egg. Every male character, including Angel, has sex with a teenaged girl, and every female except Angeles has some sexual aberration; even she is gang-raped. Yet Fuentes’s target is not sex, which serves primarily as entertainment. His censure is directed at the social, political, and cultural deficiencies of his country.