The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The majority of the characters who populate Locos are on the periphery of society, either by their own design or because they overstep boundaries of acceptable behavior. Dr. de los Rios and the unidentified writer function as complementary halves that comment to one another and constitute the whole of one who observes the strange behavior of others with very little direct involvement. Alfau, clearly intrigued with the thin line between crime and the law, often uses his characters to play out this fascination rather than develop them fully. The focus is more on plot in some of the stories. In “The Wallet,” Prefect Benito’s sore bottom indicates that Pepe mistakenly beat up his own uncle the night before, thinking that Benito had stolen his wallet. The lack of specific character development places an emphasis on the power of the wallet itself as a source of corruption. Even family members are susceptible to the lure of financial gain at the expense of their blood relations.

Repeatedly, Alfau drops clues along the way, impelling the reader to pick up the scent and pursue answers. Chinelato, the Philippine-born Chinese man, is afforded a long thirty pages in this slender book. Without parents and a minority against whom others vent their racist wrath, he becomes increasingly more violent and misogynist. Like necrophil Micaela Valverde or even fragile Garcia, Chinelato endures to the bitter end. When he becomes too old for acts of physical...

(The entire section is 491 words.)