The central character, the figure for whom the entire novel exists, is the patriarch himself. Yet he is less a unified character than a pastiche of the idea of the dictator: one who has ultimate power to create his own world and to manipulate other human beings as though they were dispensable pieces in an elaborate, self-indulgent game. If the patriarch were to be taken as a real person, he could be dismissed simply as mad. Since, however, he is an embodiment of the horrors of ultimate power that corrupts absolutely, he suggests the madness of power itself, which is a much more horrifying concept.
He is given all the attributes of the magical personage—one who can change the weather, who is invulnerable to bullets, who fathers hundreds of children, who is destined to live forever, who rules so absolutely that when he asks what time it is, the answer is whatever time he wishes it to be. At the same time, however, he is also seen as weak, fearful of assassination, often sexually impotent, at the mercy of those around him, and generally in a state of aging decay. His gigantic herniated testicle, which he must carry about in a leather case, is a central symbol of this double image: Even as it suggests the magnitude of his sexual organs and thus his power, it also is like a hump on his back, a burden that limits him. Moreover, his seemingly unrestrained power is made ridiculous by the various ruses that his followers must employ to maintain the illusion of...
(The entire section is 448 words.)