Pepe Torres is the oldest child of Mama Torres, her nineteen-year-old son. He is tall, "loose and gangling, all legs and feet and wrists." Steinbeck describes his appearance in detail:
Pepe had a tall head, pointed at the top, and from its peak coarse black hair grew down, like a thatch all around. Over his smiling little eyes Mama cut a straight bang so he could see. Pepe had sharp Indian cheekbones and an eagle nose, but his mouth was as sweet and shapely as a girl's mouth, and his chin was fragile and chiseled.
Pepe is a gentle, lazy boy, smiling and affectionate. On the verge of manhood, he knows nothing of the world beyond his home. He lacks judgment and experience, which leads him into disaster when he goes to town. He drinks wine, falls into a quarrel, and knifes a man. After returning home, now a hunted man, Pepe has changed. His eyes are no longer full of laughter and bashfulness. They are "sharp and bright and purposeful." Pepe is no longer a boy; circumstances have forced him to behave as a man, one who must take flight, on his own, into the mountains to escape those who will pursue and kill him.