Compare and contrast the characters of The Underdogs by focusing on the dialogues and viewpoints expressed; for example, Demetrio Macias' conversations with Cervantes, Venancio, Valderrama, Pintada, Luis Solis, etc. Focus on the various “actors” created by Azuela as he related their experiences in the most violent years of the Mexican Revolution.
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The play Los de Abajo or The Underdogs uses direct and indirect characterization to illustrate the typical male roles of Mejicanos, that is, the Mexican natives, during the revolution UNDER THE VIEWPOINT that Azuela was against war and, therefore, his characters will eventually question these very roles and, as a result, some will even cease to be altogether.
The Alpha male, or "el jefe" of this group of renegades is Demetrio Masías. A dynamic character, Masías represents Azuela's own point of view: many men join the war, or the revolution, without a clear viewpoint and, after they have killed seen others get killed, and much worse, they finally have to come to the realization that they were nothing but sheep. In Demetrio's case, he undergoes the haphazards of the revolution because he turns on his cacique (town's leader), and thus needs to watch out for his life and that of his followers. He is followed to revolt by his compadre, Montañés, and la Codorniz "the Quail", Pancracio, el Meco, Venancio, and el Manteca "lard". These are mainly secondary characters who follow Demetrio for a number of different reasons. Venancio, for instance, was a murderer and needed to escape from the Federales, Codorniz is a thief, and el manteca is short of a sociopath. Every one of these men is ignorant, and detached.
Luis Cervantes, as his name implies, was the educated one. Note that Azuela names this character after Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the author of Don Quijote de La Mancha, the most celebrated work of literature in the Spanish-speaking world after the Bible. Cervantes stands out and serves as Masías's exact opposite. Cervantes leaves a mark almost immediately. Welcomed erroneously as an enemy, he is put to the test by Masías and yet his eloquent speech leaves them all in awe.
I wanted to fight for the sacred cause of the oppressed... but you don't understand.
This, of course, is not the case. Unlike Masías, he understands perfectly well why he is there. He is merely an observer, as he has to report his tasks to El País en Tiempo de Madero, but his education has allowed him more schema from which he can compare and contrast issues rather than merely act upon them like Demetrio does. Yet, Cervantes complements all of Demetrios's faults, serving as his listener, his healer (he is a med student), and his alter ego in a way. Cervantes represents the prototype of the opportunist; he is not there for ideological reasons either; he is just smart enough to know that money tends to circulate faster and more effectively during warfare and he wants to take the spoils for himself. He does, indeed, gain from the war and leaves Mexico to move to the US.
Valderrama, the crazy poet, represents the heart of the country: a powerful country, become disenfranchised; an inspired country broken apart by war; infested by the evils of insanity, hatred, and chaos. Notice that Masías uses Valderrama for the purpose of entertainment, making him sing patriotic songs and the like. On the other hand, Valderrama blindly follows Masías. Again, we find the motif of the blind leading the blind for all the wrong reasons. In the end, all the characters are left wondering what was the worth of anything? What was gained? The answer is that all was eventually a loss.
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