The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Each of the characters in Avalovara is identified with a particular notion, either abstract or concrete, which contributes to an understanding of the character in the context of the whole. Abel’s German lover Roos, for example, is identified with cities, and part of her function appears to be to suggest the mobility, even random movement, of people and objects in the space of the cosmos. Cecilia, his first Brazilian lover, is identified with a series of animals but has as a salient characteristic not some animal trait but a complex of non-traits, which contribute to her ambiguity—she is neither woman nor animal, woman nor man, and she is surrounded by characters who similarly have interchangeable or indeterminate names. Abel himself is most clearly identified with water, a traditional symbol of some richness, but he is the seeker of truth, not an embodiment of it. Undoubtedly the most interesting, and the most difficult, character is >O<, a woman “twice-born” whose behavior makes her seem more mythic than human but who is at the same time the object of Abel’s almost hallucinatory erotic obsession. Even Olavo Hayano, who is important in the action only at the climax and who remains a sketchy figure throughout, is likely to be associated in the reader’s mind with the “Yolyp,” an imaginary creature of great destructive power.

Avalovara is not really a character here, but it is most closely associated with >O<, and many of its attributes are hers. The name derives from the Buddhist Avalokitesvara, a male Bodhisattva, one who has attained enlightenment but who postpones Nirvana in order to help others attain enlightenment. >O< is not only magical but also double, because there is within her another set of eyes, another life, another self.

One of the most interesting characterization devices in Avalovara is found in the use of names. Novelists have long used suggestive names to hint at the configuration of soul of a character, but Lins seems to have been determined to force readers into a more active role in determining a character’s goodness or badness. Most of the principal characters here have no last name—one of the two principals has no name at all, but rather a symbol.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Abel (ah-BEHL), a writer from Northeastern Brazil, where he was born in 1935. He is a student in Paris at the age of twenty-seven, then a cashier at the Brazilian Fiscal Commission in Recife. He makes love with three women at different times in his life. He is married but separated from a woman who kills herself. He is murdered by Hayano.

Anneliese Roos (Rose)

Anneliese Roos (Rose), his German lover in Paris, where she has been since 1951, though she has worked as a receptionist in Amsterdam. She leaves Abel for her husband, who is in a Lausanne sanatorium.


Cecília (seh-SEE-lee-ah), Abel’s androgynous Brazilian lover in Recife. She works for hospital social services. Her brothers, one a policeman, beat her and Abel. Pregnant by Abel, she dies in an accident.


>O<, his twenty-three-or thirty-two-year-old lover in São Paulo. Reared by her grandparents, she married Hayano when she was still in school and attempted suicide on her wedding night. Her lovemaking with Abel is rendered in strong physical detail. During lovemaking, she recalls her previous life of first love, husband, grandparents, and feeling for the bird Avalovara. She is killed with Abel by her husband, who finds them in sexual embrace.

The Fat Woman

The Fat Woman, Abel’s...

(The entire section is 585 words.)