And the Earth Did Not Part Characters

Tomas Rivera

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The novel’s characters do not fit easily into categories. Almost no one character is fully developed, nor is any so abstracted as to defy a reader’s identification. The unnamed man who appears in the first section, “The Lost Year,” and in the final one, “Under the House,” appear to be one and the same; he is the only character with whom the author seems to stay and whom he develops. After the man has initially fallen asleep, the only thing to awaken him is someone calling his name. In the same way, it is through recognition of the “other” (in the case of this novel, a migrant worker) as one with an identity that awakens the individual. Rivera accomplishes more than simply using this male character as a backdrop on which to project the rest of the stories. The character functions as both a window through which readers view the Mexican workers’ lives and as an increasingly more complex figure in the drama of harsh existence. The first of the italicized commentaries between chapters describes a boy whose superstitious mother leaves a glass of water out for the spirits. One night, the boy drinks the water; he considers revealing this to his mother, but he decides to wait and tell her when he is grown up. So begin the subtle undertones of this boy’s tender qualities. In “It Is Painful,” he is deeply tied to his parents, so desperate to make them proud for his having finished school that he convinces himself he has not been expelled. Doña Bonafacio...

(The entire section is 504 words.)