Who is the antagonist in Tortuga?

The antagonists in Tortuga by Rudolfo Anaya are Tortuga's injury, Tortuga himself (as he embarks on his spiritual journey), and Danny, another hospital patient who is mentally disabled.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In a work of literature, an antagonist is someone or something that opposes the protagonist, or main character. In Rudolfo Anaya's novel Tortuga, we can identify more than one antagonist.

The protagonist is Benjie Chavez, who is nicknamed Tortuga (“turtle”). He has been injured in a fall...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In a work of literature, an antagonist is someone or something that opposes the protagonist, or main character. In Rudolfo Anaya's novel Tortuga, we can identify more than one antagonist.

The protagonist is Benjie Chavez, who is nicknamed Tortuga (“turtle”). He has been injured in a fall and is paralyzed, so he must receive treatment at a hospital and wear a body cast. Tortuga's first antagonist, then, is his injury, for he must fight against it and learn to overcome it even in the midst of suffering. Tortuga experiences difficult and demanding therapy and also witnesses the suffering of the other young people at the hospital, especially those in the “vegetable” ward, where children are kept alive only by machines that breathe for them. Tortuga must face the feelings of horror that arise in him as he sees these children. He must also embark on a spiritual journey that has been triggered by his injury, and in this case, his primary antagonist is himself as he works to grow and overcome his challenges.

Tortuga must also face a human antagonist, another patient at the hospital named Danny. Danny is mentally disabled, and he pushes Tortuga into the swimming pool, and Tortuga almost drowns (saved, thankfully, by people nearby who hurry to help him). Whether Danny truly understands what he is doing or not is questionable, but he certainly stands in opposition to Tortuga, even though Tortuga's experience in the pool actually symbolizes an important step he must take in his spiritual life. Danny also shuts off the power to the “vegetable” ward, causing many of the children there to die.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on