Identity formation is of particular concern in this book, as the development of one of the chief characters, Saul Zuratas, demonstrates. Through this character Llosa posits the notion that it is possible to change one's identity radically, to discard a current identity and take up a new one as if it were a new item of clothing. This is why at the end of the story Saul is described as an "ex-friend, ex-Jew, ex-white man, and ex-Westerner." The narrator goes on to describe how Saul became a Machiguenga as if it were a "conversion," saying that in the culture of the Machiguengas:
...Saul found spiritual sustenance, an incentive and a justification for his life, a commitment that he had not found in those other Peruvian tribes--Jewish, Christian, Marxist, etc.--among which he had lived.
What is important therefore to realise in this book is that it is a combination of cultural beliefs and personal agendas that ultimately shapes who Saul Zuratas is and who he becomes. The narrator imagines the slow progression of Saul's transformation into the hablador he becomes, charting his disillusionment with Western society and the attractiveness of Machiguenga culture. It is equally the culture of the Machiguengas and the personal agenda of Saul that causes him to make the radical transformation in his life that has such far reaching consequences on his own life and on the life of the narrator.