The process of characterization is central to Betrayed by Rita Hayworth. Each of the main characters (and some of the minor ones) is allotted his or her own chapter (Toto is given three, counting his essay on the films) and also is more fully presented through the eyes of the others. For example, Héctor is mentioned frequently by Mita, Toto, and others, creating an image for the reader which then must be tested against Héctor’s own monologue in the ninth chapter. His rampant sexuality is later ironically contrasted to Esther’s perception of him in chapter 12. Esther, a scholarship student at the school Héctor and Toto attend, writes her diary in a style imitated from romantic magazines and imagines Héctor to be the kind of “gentlemanly” date she has long desired. Interestingly, it is Toto who perceives Esther’s danger and calls off the rendezvous he had been helping to arrange. Esther resigns herself to her loss and goes back to dreams of helping humankind through a career in medicine.
In the stories of most of the characters certain emphases recur; in particular, each character meditates on sexuality, and most of them reveal, directly or indirectly, how their education has affected their lives. These traits are equally true in men and women, although Puig certainly presents men, particularly Héctor and Cobito, as more voracious, predatory, and impulsive with regard to sex. Even Paquita, presented earlier in the novel as...
(The entire section is 402 words.)
José Casals (hoh-SEH kah-SAHLS), also called Toto, the main character. the novel follows him from infancy in the small provincial town of Vallejos, Argentina, to the age of fifteen, when he is at George Washington High School, a boarding school in Merlo, a suburb of Buenos Aires. Bright and inquisitive but self-centered and spoiled, he grows up being the best student in his class and having his own way. He matures into adolescence and is exposed to an ever-widening world in which he is not always the center of attention, although intellectually he has a competitive advantage over others. Hungry for knowledge, experience, and power, he continually seeks the company of older students and adults who possess these attributes. He is confused about his own sexuality and the more intimate details of sex, and his own sexual predilections are still to be determined. As a child, he fantasizes about the romantic images of the world that come to him principally through Hollywood films, novels, and the influence of his doting mother. As he grows up, he is forced away from her protective feminine world and has to face a harsher, nastier reality. There, too, he wants to be first. He manipulates people in his search for power and prestige, which to him are the signs of success in this larger world. What is in doubt is how his search will be resolved: whether he will prefer males or females, and whether he will be abusive and exploitative in his use of the power that probably will be his.
Mita (MEE-tah), Toto’s mother. A college graduate, she marries Berto, a man with less education who reminds her of an Argentine film star with whom she once danced. She works first in the hospital and then in the pharmacy. When the family is financially secure, Berto forces her to resign and devote herself to family. She consents and has a second child, who dies still unnamed. A third child, rarely mentioned, also is born. She rears her husband’s nephew Héctor, dresses down, uses little makeup, gains weight, and accepts the matronly role assigned by her husband. She fantasizes and escapes her small-town existence through novels,...
(The entire section is 924 words.)