The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The numerous fragments that make up The Fair are, for the most part, the voices of the populace of Zapotlán. The multitude of perspectives throughout the book belong to an array of characters representing all social strata, several centuries, and diverse interests and attitudes. Historical documents, journalistic reports, biblical excerpts, diary entries, ancient myths, and gossip are presented as monologue, dialogue, or quotations. Often, one incident or situation will elicit a variety of responses that revise, fill in, explain, and/or illuminate one another in order to arrive at some truth. For example, a chorus of the poor interrupts Don Manuel to complete his ingenuous account. Several viewpoints expressed about prostitution in Zapotlán reveal not the immorality of the prostitutes but the hypocrisy of the townspeople.

Even the main characters in the novel are not multidimensional but tend to exhibit a certain trait with which they are identified. They are not individuals, but types that illustrate abstract concepts such as innocence or hope, and do so in a consistent fashion. (Indeed, alteration of activity or status usually suggests defeat, as when the poet becomes a novelist or when Don Fidencio loses his dignity.) The portrayals of these attributes through the characters are extremely adept in The Fair; Odilón, for example, is hate personified. Some minor characters, although they appear only briefly, make an indelible impression by the tragedy of their stories: Paulina and the railroad man are two such characters.

In that the purpose of The Fair is the re-creation of life in Zapotlán, with language as the means to simulate that set of experiences, Arreola achieves his goal through breadth in characterization and the multitude of voices that speak on behalf of the “thirty thousand of us” that are Zapotlan.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Juan Tepano

Juan Tepano (hwahn teh-PAHN-noh), the oldest of five tlayacanques (Indian tribal officials). His designation as Primera Vara (first staff) identifies him as charged with ecclesiastical matters. He provides information about the history and problems of Zapotlán el Grande, the city of thirty thousand inhabitants that is the focus of the action (variously presented by some seventy characters, beginning with Tepano, in first-and third-person narratives and in dialogues). He works in the fields with his people, who, though nominally landowners, actually are tenant farmers subject to eviction. Tepano and his fellow officials are involved in the conflict of legal issues over land possession between the Indians and the Spanish-lineage upper-class residents.

Don Manuel

Don Manuel, a shoemaker who lets his business suffer in his unsuccessful attempt at farming. He provides an account of the working of his farm from seedtime to harvest. His inefficacy as a farmer is surpassed only by that of the Indians, who nevertheless agitate for the repossession of their ancestors’ land.

Don Salvador

Don Salvador, called Don Salva, a storekeeper in love with his beautiful employee, Chayo. His determination to propose marriage to her is defeated by his timidity and, finally, by her being seduced and impregnated by Odilón.

Don Fidencio

Don Fidencio (fee-DEHN-see-oh), a candlemaker. His oldest daughter is Chayo, whose illegitimate pregnancy disgraces him. He produces, however, the major attraction of the Fair, a two-hundred-peso candle (almost three meters high and one-half meter in diameter), which had been commissioned by María Palomino.


Odilón (oh-dee-LOHN), the handsome playboy and ne’er-do-well son of Don Abigail. His technique of seducing women includes the false promise of marriage. He callously deserts Chayo after she conceives his child.

Don Faustino

Don Faustino (fows-TEE-noh), the presidente municipal (highest municipal official). Disappointed in his prayers to Saint Joseph, he does not share his constituents’ devotion to the patron saint of Zapotlán, in whose honor the Fair is held every October. He legislated the limitation of the city’s brothels to a single area and the licensing of prostitutes after medical examination. Despite his avowed disbelief in Saint Joseph, Don Faustino does all that he can to ensure the success of the Fair “con permiso de José” (with Joseph’s concurrence).

Gaspar Ruiz de Cabrera

Gaspar Ruiz de Cabrera (rrew-EES deh kah-BREHR-ah), theLicenciado, the investor and moneylender who sponsors the Fair. Carrying meat that he has purchased for his evening meal, he suffers a fatal heart attack in the street.


(The entire section is 1251 words.)