Joaquín Monegro (wah-KEEN mohn-AY-groh), a physician and scientist, an accomplished orator, and a lifelong friend and secret enemy of Abel Sánchez. In this parable of contrasts and moral ambiguities, Joaquín is the dark personality, like the biblical Cain, consumed by jealousy and hatred of his closest companion. Even as a child, Joaquín believed that Abel had robbed him of everything he ever wanted, effortlessly usurping his friends and the admiration of adults. Actually, having chosen this role, Joaquín often arranged accidents that promoted his preconceptions. When he fell passionately in love with the beautiful Helena, for example, he arranged for Abel to paint her portrait, fully aware of Abel’s easy success with women. When Abel and Helena became lovers, Joaquín believed that he had proved once more that Abel had betrayed him. He becomes more sly and circumspect in his zeal to outdo and even to destroy Abel. Although he is considered a cold man, Joaquín despises himself for his continual malice and actually fights off some temptations to harm Abel. After Abel and Helena are married and are expecting a child, he refuses to attend Helena in childbirth, lest he strangle the child at birth. He marries a tender and compassionate woman. When his wife has a baby girl, he hopes that he can find salvation through the love of a child. He even becomes fond of Abel’s son, who wants to become a doctor, not a painter like his father. Although Joaquín takes Abel’s son, Abelin, into his household as an apprentice, originally with the malicious goal of displacing Abel as parent, he grows to love the boy and becomes a good mentor, teaching him his healing arts. Neither the love of his patient wife nor the devotion of the young people, however, can root out the ancient malice. When Abel becomes enthralled with Joaquín’s grandson, born to Abelin and Joaquín’s daughter, the old jealousy arises. In an argument, Joaquín reaches for Abel’s throat, but Abel dies of a heart attack on the spot. The wretched Joaquín dies soon afterward, mourning that he had killed Abel and that he had never loved anyone.
Abel Sánchez (ah-BEHL SAHN-chehs), a famous painter. Although he is devoid of malice and envy, Abel is hardly a candidate for sainthood. His character is extraordinarily flat, lacking any depth of reflection, sorrow, or passion. He is egotistical and self-serving, though not offensively so. He sometimes disagrees with Joaquín regarding the nature of art. He paints the surface of things and insists that a man is no different on the inside from what he appears to be on the outside. That is one reason that Joaquín and even young Abelin are dissatisfied with his art, even though he is very skillful in producing surface effects. Only Abelin has suffered from his father’s lack of warmth. Joaquín is probably correct that Abel does not want his son to follow in his footsteps as a painter, because that might dilute or even displace the father’s fame. Joaquín ardently seeks truth as the highest good; Abel pursues art and beauty rather dispassionately. His marriage to Helena is thus very appropriate, though he is unfaithful to her when other beautiful women are available.
Helena Sánchez (eh-LEH-nah), Abel’s wife. Abel met his match in Helena, a woman who seems to be all surface. She became enamored of Abel mostly because his portrait made her a famous beauty. She, too, seems lacking in malice or ulterior motives. Although well aware of Joaquín’s passion for her, she did not lead him on or promise him any favors. She is sometimes called a peacock or a “professional beauty.” She seems to have no impact on her son, nor does she appear to suffer from Abel’s infidelities.
Antonia Monegro, Joaquín’s wife. She personifies motherliness, tenderness, and compassion. She is drawn to Joaquín because of the sickness of his soul. A religious person, she prays for his...
(The entire section is 1,488 words.)