Matías Alvear (mah-TEE-ahs ahl-veh-AHR), a telegrapher with the government postal service and patriarch of the Alvear family. Mildly anticlerical, he shuns politics, preferring to go to the Neutral Cafe for games of dominoes with his friends. His involvement with the tragic events of the Spanish Civil War mainly concerns the telegrams he sends or receives. Originally from Madrid, he has to learn Catalan or be transferred.
Carmen Elgazu (ehl-GAH-sew), his wife, a Basque. She is deeply religious. She ensures that her three children receive a strong religious upbringing and is aided by the priests who advise her, especially Mosén Alberto. She deplores the secularizing tendencies of the Spanish Republic but is not active politically.
Ignacio Alvear (eeg-NAH-see-oh), their oldest son, the central figure of the novel. He enters the seminary as a boarding student but after a few years decides he does not want to become a priest. He begins working as an office boy in the Arús Bank, and associates with his coworkers. After he passes the examinations for his high school studies (undertaken at night), he is promoted. While on vacation at the seashore, he meets his first sweetheart, Ana Maria, but on his return to Gerona he fails to answer her letters and becomes involved with the prostitute Canela, who gives him a venereal disease. His recovery from this illness leads him to make a thorough confession and to be reconciled with his family. He later becomes romantically involved with Marta Martínez de Soria, the major’s daughter, who is a Falangist like his classmate Mateo Santos. Although Ignacio is involved in a minor riot, his participation is instigated by his anarchist cousin José from Madrid, and he remains uninvolved in politics.
César Alvear (SEH-sahr), Ignacio’s younger...
(The entire section is 853 words.)