Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Fray Lázaro

Fray Lázaro (LAH-sah-roh), a novice in a Franciscan order in rural Chile. His name in the outside world was Mario. He chose to enter a Franciscan monastery after he was rejected by his girlfriend, Gracia. Although he has spent seven years at the monastery, he hesitates to take life vows as a friar because he worries that his vocation may not be authentic. He believes that he is wasting his youth and his potential (he enjoys writing), and the religious life is not giving him strong personal satisfaction. His daily routine of teaching and work in the monastery’s fields is boring and unrewarding. When he meets María Mercedes, Gracia’s younger sister, he finds relief from the tedium of his life. Every day, he feels more eager to see her. Fray Lázaro begins to suffer a severe religious crisis when he realizes that he is in love with the innocent woman. Although he struggles against physical attraction to María Mercedes, he recognizes sexual desire in his love for her. His internal debate is interrupted by Fray Rufino’s attempt to rape María Mercedes. Fray Lázaro assumes all guilt for the violent act, and the order transfers him to another monastery.

Fray Rufino

Fray Rufino (rew-FEE-noh), a Franciscan friar, old and feeble. Fray Rufino’s reputation as a saint has spread throughout the town, causing people to seek his company and counsel. His miracles include his ability to communicate with animals, his power to cure dying animals, and his restoration of the sight of a blind woman. In...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Brown, James. “El hermano asno: When the Unreliable Narrator Meets the Unreliable Reader.” Hispania 71, no. 4 (December, 1988): 798-805. In-depth study of the various modern literary techniques displayed in the novel. Stresses the relationship between the reader and the novel’s narrator. Discusses the use of irony in the plot.

Foster, David William, and Virginia Ramos Foster. “Barrios, Eduardo.” In Modern Latin American Literature, edited by David William Foster and Virginia Ramos Foster. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1975. A survey study of Barrios’ work. Provides excerpts of critical studies by various critics. An excellent starting point to Barrios’ works.

Souza, Raymond. “Indeterminacy of Meaning in El hermano asno.” Chasqui 13, nos. 2/3 (Febrero, Mayo, 1984): 26-32. An in-depth analysis of Barrios’ literary craft and the treatment of rape as a literary motif. Focuses on women’s issues.

Walker, John. Gálvez, Barrios, and the Metaphysical Malaise. Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Foreign Literatures 36, no. 4 (Winter, 1982/1983): 352-358. Comparative study of Barrios and novelist Manuel Gálvez; both authors were interested in metaphysical subjects. Stresses their interest in metaphysical issues as ways to improve contemporary society.

Walker, John. Metaphysics and Aesthetics in the Works of Eduardo Barrios. London: Tamesis, 1983. Studies the relationship between Barrios’ novel and his strong interest in metaphysics.