The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Riobaldo is both the narrator and the central character in the novel. He is tormented by the possibility that he may have sold his soul to the devil, and he relates the story of his early years in the Brazilian backlands as a way of discovering the truth. Riobaldo, the protagonist, lives the life of a gunman who achieves success as the leader of an outlaw band. During his rise to leadership, he does call on the devil, and he appears to be more successful afterward. However, it becomes clear to the reader that the world that Riobaldo the narrator depicts and in which Riobaldo the protagonist acts is so magical and powerful that it defies the traditional separation between good and evil and even destroys its symbols, Diadorim and Heremógenes.

Diadorim becomes Riobaldo’s best friend. She is an ambivalent figure who is both a fearless fighter and a sensual being. She displays fits of jealousy when Riobaldo becomes romantically involved with other women. Beneath her rough exterior, she carries the secret of her womanhood and its essential goodness. That goodness symbolically confronts evil in the hand-to-hand combat with Heremógenes, the symbol of evil, in the final battle of the novel. The reader does not really come to understand Diadorim until after her death, when it is revealed that she is a female.

Joca Ramiro is the father of Diadorim and a powerful leader. He undergoes little development during the course of the novel. Joca Ramiro...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Riobaldo (ree-oh-BAHL-doh), the narrator and protagonist. His life takes a major turn when, at the age of fourteen, he meets Diadorim, a girl who passes for a boy and who belongs to a family heavily involved in politically oriented armed movements in the backlands. After the death of his mother, he goes to live with his godfather, who teaches him the ways of the jagunço or gunman. He then enters thejagunço life. In his travels, Riobaldo again meets Diadorim and joins her band. With her support and the strength he acquires from a supposed encounter with the devil, he wins the leadership of the band and achieves victory over Heremógenes, the murderer of Diadorim’s father, Joca Ramiro. As a wealthy old farmer, Riobaldo tells the story that is the novel as a way of discovering if he, in fact, sold his soul to the devil.


Diadorim (dee-ah-DOHR-eem), the daughter of Joca Ramiro. She lives her life as a man. She befriends Riobaldo and later becomes his faithful companion. After the murder of her father at the hands of Heremógenes, she becomes obsessed with taking revenge. Riobaldo’s rise to leadership is the vehicle by which she is given the opportunity to realize her goal. During the last battle, she meets Heremógenes in hand-to-hand combat. Both die in a bloody scene. After her death, Riobaldo discovers that she is a...

(The entire section is 492 words.)