The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Mario is, despite the title, the principal focus of interest in the novel, which covers a brief period in his life and examines the widely different effects that both Julia and the scriptwriter have upon him. This novel of the education of a young man focuses not only upon his sensations and ideas but also upon his improbable actions and their sometimes hilarious consequences for him. Although several of the minor characters, chiefly his relatives and his companions at the radio station, do, in fact, have their own existences and concerns, one sees them predominantly through Mario’s eyes and in relation to his own growth, concerns, and aspirations. In his painstaking characterization of his friends and relatives and in his precise details of the urban geography of Lima, Mario the narrator consistently views his environment personally, in relation to his sense of it and its meaning for him. In this sense, he is as much “the scriptwriter” of his own life, times, and place as Pedro Camacho is the scriptwriter of dozens of domestic and civil tragedies and melodramas of his contemporary Lima. Further, both Camacho and Mario are the creations of Mario the novelist.

As the young Mario makes his way through these few weeks and months of this extraordinary period in his life, he examines his journalistic apprenticeship at Radio Panamerica and the disparate writing assignments that he undertakes to help support Julia and himself as prologues to his Stephen Dedalus-like flight to the...

(The entire section is 612 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Mario, also called Varguitas (vahr-gew-EE-tahs) and Marito (mah-REE-toh), the narrator-protagonist, a confident college student who is underemployed as a radio newswriter. He is waiting for the chance to devote himself completely to a literary life, preferably in Paris. Hardly anything distinguishes Mario—indiscriminately and purposely called by the author’s nicknames as a young man—from the real Mario Vargas Llosa. Mario comically and romantically serializes his courtship of Julia, an aunt by his uncle’s marriage, and his apprenticeship as a writer under the guidance of Pedro Camacho, a scriptwriter for radio soap operas. Mario’s “autobiography” is an exercise in indiscretion at the literary and empirical level, even though his depiction of himself as an intelligent, tall, dark, and handsome extrovert is rendered truthful by the other characters. Mario sees marriage alternately as a challenge or as an adventure, all of which can be turned into literature, specifically short stories. As the narrator of the final chapter, he summarizes in one page how he reunites with Julia to share a life that would last eight years.

Aunt Julia

Aunt Julia, fourteen years older than Mario, a divorced Bolivian who cannot bear children. Physically attractive, she dazzles the young Mario with what he perceives to be healthy cunning and spontaneity. Close...

(The entire section is 401 words.)