Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 784
Martín Tregua (mahr-TEEN TRAY-gwah), the narrator, a law student living in a boarding house in Buenos Aires. Disaffected with law school, he quits to devote himself to writing. He publishes a book of poems and becomes deeply involved with the publication of a new and provocative journal, titled Enough. When the patron of the review closes it down, Martín spends several years in isolation, living and writing while supporting himself on an inheritance from his father. He has one serious relationship with a woman, Mercedes Miró, that fizzles out. He deeply admires Señora de Cárdenas, whom he idealizes and observes only from afar. After spending some time in Europe, he returns to Buenos Aires, where he develops an odd but serious relationship with Gloria Bambil, a librarian whose listlessness challenges Martín to enliven her and to make her happy. At the novel’s end, Martín is once again alone; Gloria has taken her own life. Señora de Cárdenas remains his inspiration and his model, his ideal, and he remains a solitary writer.
Señora de Cárdenas
Señora de Cárdenas (see-NYOH-rah day CAHR-day-nahs), a mysterious character referred to only as “you” for most of the novel. Her identity is revealed gradually by the accretion of details throughout the text, in which her life history is interwoven. Born into an aristocratic family dating from colonial times, she is both noble and rich. She rejects the model prescribed by her social status and marries below her station, out of pity and rebellion, not out of love. Her husband comes to resent her status and wealth. His sense of inferiority leads him to drink, to womanize, and to sell his influence to the highest buyer; in short, he disgraces himself. Through it all, and through the birth of two sons, one of whom dies in a horseback riding accident, Señora de Cárdenas maintains her dignity and grace. Although she speaks to Martín only once, it is to her that his text, which is this novel, is addressed.
Jiménez (hee-MEHN-ehz), a close friend of Martín who lives at the boarding house and works on Enough. He has an affair with the sympathetic Inés Boll, whose estranged husband beats him about the head with his cane, breaking Jiménez’s glasses on his face, lacerating his eyes. He is partially blinded as a result.
César Acevedo (SEH-sahr ah-seh-VEH-doh), the organizer and patron ofEnough. After several numbers, he closes the review because of a lack of financial support and the apathy of the Argentine people toward their own political situation. He reappears late in the novel, an embittered man whose second marriage has gone poorly.
Mercedes Miró (mee-ROH), an intriguing young woman with whom Martín has an affair of some duration. Despite her captivating personality and intellect, he calls off the affair.
Inés Boll (ee-NEHS), a quiet and sad woman living in the boarding house. She is separated from her husband and begins an affair with Jiménez that ends tragically.
Dr. René Ferrier,
Dr. René Ferrier, a physician with whom Martín stays while in Brussels. Although he is the victim of a liver ailment, he suffers from existential angst and drinks from morning until night. He confesses to treating patients for the money it brings him, whether or not he is competent to treat them.
Cesare Antoriello (cheh-ZAH-ray AHN-toh-ree-EHL-loh), a biologist who immigrated from Italy to escape the Fascist sentiment on the rise there. He devotes his days to editing his dead son Ezio’s socialist papers and spends his evenings hosting political discussions among other anti-Fascists.
Gloria Bambil (bahm-BEEL), a librarian with whom Martín has his longest and most serious relationship. the death of her mother when she was very young, followed by the lengthy illness of her manipulative, destructive father, made Gloria an isolated person who thinks poorly of herself. Her perennial sadness and distance challenge Martín, who spends much time trying to bring her happiness. She complains that she is damaging to him; he disagrees. Because he abandons his writing for long periods or at inopportune times so that he can be with her, there is some truth to what she says. She tries to force him to break off their relationship, but he refuses. She suggests that they spend a week together at the seashore. She seems very happy, but she is emaciated by the end of the week. Though never explicitly stated, it is clear that Gloria commits suicide shortly after their final week together.
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