Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Victor Hugues

Victor Hugues (ewg), a robust self-made French entrepreneur and revolutionary living in the Caribbean. He is a man of action who likes to be in charge, whether it is in the Havana household he enters on a trip from his home in Saint-Domingue (future Haiti) in 1789, or, later, as an agent of various French governments in Caribbean colonies. Victor helps organize the business of his recently orphaned young Cuban hosts and familiarizes them with the latest liberal ideas. An opportunist, he adapts to the successive stages of the French Revolution, from initial libertarianism through various phases of repression. He is modeled on the historical personage of the same name.


Sofía (soh-FEE-ah), a wealthy young woman brought up with her brother, Carlos, and male cousin Esteban in a wealthy Havana home situated next door to the retail establishment of her father, who has died just before the action of the novel begins. A spirited woman, she becomes imbued with Enlightenment ideals and stays loyal to them throughout. Sofía’s maturation into womanhood is encouraged by Victor’s advances, to which she eventually yields before he leaves Cuba. She breaks off their later intimate relationship in French Guiana because she is disgusted with Victor’s repression of the black people there. Sofía finally goes to Spain to be near Esteban, who loves her and has been imprisoned there. At Sofía’s urging, they join the revolutionary crowd on the day of the Napoleonic massacre in early May, 1808, and are not heard from again.


Esteban (ehs-TEH-bahn), the initially frail, asthmatic younger cousin of Sofía and Carlos who from early childhood has lived with them. He has a penchant for the imaginative and the fantastic. After his...

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