The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Only in Marks of Identity is it appropriate to speak of characters in the traditional fictional sense. In this first novel of the trilogy, the characterization of Alvaro Mendiola is developed through an approach that is primarily sociohistorical. His discontent and despair are identified as grounded in his early childhood experiences and in the facts of the cultural and historical milieu of mid-century Spain. This interpretation of Alvaro’s identity is clear in the first scene of the novel, in which he searches for the roots of his rebellion against his marks of identity in the photographs that he finds in his family album. He was born of parents whose grandparents owned a sugar plantation in Cuba worked by hundreds of black slaves, and his most vivid image of childhood is the strict prohibition against any kind of erotic expression. Thus, the conflict of the cultural stereotype of the African as the incarnation of sexual freedom and the restraints on sexual expression in Western society, reflected in Alvaro Mendiola’s political activities and in his reactions to his homeland when he returns in 1963, become the central motifs of the Exile Trilogy.

The other characters in Marks of Identity, the university friends of Alvaro, serve primarily as stimuli to the memory process, evoking narratives of Alvaro’s life in Barcelona during the time he was a student. Not until the second novel, Count Julian, do the secondary characters...

(The entire section is 570 words.)