The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Delia is the title character and the consciousness through which the novel is largely filtered. A young woman—a freshman from a Mexican heritage at the University of California at Berkeley—Delia struggles to come to terms with a painful past, a confusing present, and an uncertain future. The reader is initially confused about her identity; not only is she disguised as a saint, she is lost and distraught. The opening scream of pain (one of many interjected italicized poetic passages reflecting nightmarish eruptions of memory) introduces the question that is the novel’s focus: Who, really, is Delia Trevino?

That Delia has some unresolved personal pain is evident in the flashback narrative, told in italicized stream-of-consciousness passages. The flashbacks reveal the heroine’s disturbance over the violent deaths of her two brothers, Sebastian and Ricardo, and indicate her conflicted relationship with her mother and father, who devalue this intelligent and sensitive girl-child.

Coming from a Mexican heritage complete with folkloristic elements (seen in images of spicy, hot foods and Catholic iconography), Delia carries internally the burden of the family’s hopes, even when those hopes have been dashed by the loss of her brothers. She carries these turbulent feelings with her to college, but she remains distant, taciturn. She becomes, therefore, an attractive mystery to her influential professor, Mattie Johnson, and to the group of...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Delia Trevino

Delia Trevino (DEH-lee-ah treh-VEE-noh), a Mexican American student at the University of California, Berkeley. A freshman from a Mexican background, Delia becomes an activist for Third World liberation, participates in campus revolution, and falls in love with one of the idealistic heroes of the revolution.

Jeff Morones

Jeff Morones (moh-ROH-nehs), also a young activist at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the object—and ultimate winner—of Delia’s affections.

Roger N. Hart

Roger N. Hart, alias “James Joyce.” Hart is a marine biologist around whom Delia’s fantasies turn after an erotic encounter at a Day of the Dead costume party at a friend’s home.

Professor Mattie N. Johnson

Professor Mattie N. Johnson, Delia’s mentor. Mattie is a sociologist and activist and is influential in Delia’s intellectual, political, and personal growth.

Marta Trevino de Ciotti

Marta Trevino de Ciotti (chee-OH-tee), Delia’s beloved aunt. Delia lives with Aunt Marta in Monterey after leaving Berkeley; Aunt Marta serves as Delia’s connection with her Mexican heritage and provides family background.

Samuel Corona

Samuel Corona, a graduate student in sociology. The intellectual leader of the student revolution, Samuel wins Delia’s trust, but he crumbles into alcoholism after the political riots.

Julio Singer

Julio Singer, a conga-playing poet. A member of the student activist group with which Delia becomes associated, Julio later becomes a published poet.

Sara Gonzalez

Sara Gonzalez (gohn-SAH-lehs), Delia’s roommate and a member of the liberation movement in Berkeley.