The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Esperanza, the least developed of the main characters, is presented in the role of surrogate caregiver and stabilizing influence in the family. Representative of many modern women who recognize the difficulty of maintaining both a career and a meaningful relationship, Esperanza is a successful journalist struggling to reconcile her personal needs, her political beliefs, and her professional responsibilities. The most politically active of the daughters, Esperanza functions as the novel’s social conscience. Her death while covering the Persian Gulf War transforms her into a heroic symbol of outrage at death without dignity. Esperanza is both a martyr to and a symbol of the consequences of the United States’ misguided foreign policies.
Presented as the passive victim of an unfaithful husband, Caridad resorts to nightly drinking and anonymous sex to deal with her failed marriage. Her mutilation, restoration, and exile are all simply preludes to her ultimate discovery that “falling in love . . . now that was something else altogether.” Caridad comes to embody the redeeming power of love as she voluntarily sacrifices herself for another. The principal thematic elements—the blurring of the lines between the mythic and the everyday, and the transforming power of heroism and love—come together in the final, simultaneously selfless and self-affirming act of Caridad and Esmeralda.
Initially the least sympathetic of the four daughters, Fe is...
(The entire section is 566 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sofía (soh-FEE-ah), the protagonist, the mother of four daughters. She was born into an old and respected family in New Mexico that was heir to Spanish land grants. Sofía elopes at the age of eighteen with Domingo, a handsome young gambler. She gives birth to four daughters at three-year intervals, is abandoned by her husband (after she asks him to leave), and supports her family in her rural home by butchering pigs and lambs to sell at her “Carne Buena Carniceria” (Good Meat Butcher Shop). At the age of fifty-three, she becomes the titular mayor of Tome by developing and orga-nizing sheep and cattle cooperatives to improve the economic condition of the town’s people. She survives all four of her daughters.
Esperanza (ehs-pehr-AHN-sah), Sofía’s eldest daughter. A radical Chicana activist during her college years, she earns a master’s degree in communications and becomes a TV news journalist.
Caridad (kah-ree-DAHD), Sofía’s second daughter. The beauty of the family, she marries her high school sweetheart, but his infidelity moves her to leave him shortly after the wedding. She drowns her sorrow in alcohol and men until her nightly bar adventures are cut short by a savage attack that leaves her mutilated and near death. After a miraculous recovery, she becomes...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Caridad is the third and most beautiful of Sofi's daughters. She is vibrant, sensual, and sexually active. She loved one man, and when he broke her heart by cheating on her after their wedding, Caridad turned her back on love. For several years, she gets involved with dangerous men, heavy drinking, and lots of sex. She has three abortions, all performed by her sister, La Loca, and is severely beaten by a supernatural beast. Following a year in a coma, the same year Fe is screaming, Caridad discovers a new side to herself in her ‘‘holy recovery.’’ She realizes that she has the potential to be a spiritual healer and channeler. She begins to train with Dona Felicia, and her year of wilderness solitude only enhances her reputation. Unfortunately, Caridad becomes the object of a stalker's attentions. Her stalker, Francisco el Penitente, is mentally unbalanced and believes that the only way to get Caridad out of his mind is to kill her. Caridad, rather than be murdered, jumps to her death off an ancient Pueblo Indian cliff dwelling. Her death represents the cultural forces working on women to suppress their sexuality and remove their control over their own lives.
Domingo is Sofi's husband and the father of her children. He is also a gambler. He abandons the family soon after La Loca's birth because he cannot stay in one place. He returns immediately after Caridad's ‘‘holy restoration’’—a twenty-year...
(The entire section is 922 words.)