Pascual Duarte (pahs-KWAHL DWAR-teh), a peasant of Extremadura, Spain, who has a murderous destiny. He tries to alleviate the tensions and hostility of his life by acts of ferocity. His first acts of violence—the killing of animals, tavern fights, and even the murder of his wife’s lover, El Estirao—seem to occur spontaneously in moments of rage, but the murder of his mother is premeditated. He also shoots his grandmother and may be responsible for the death of the village patriarch, Don Jesús González de la Riva, during an uprising at the start of the Spanish Civil War. His life story, written as he awaits execution, is an attempt at least to explain, if not to justify, his cruelty. He claims to have made his peace with God and humanity and is ready to die, but his end is as ignominious as his life. His courage fails him, and he must be dragged to the scaffold, crying out that no one has the right to judge him.
Pascual’s mother, whose name is not given. A drunkard, slovenly and illiterate, she is the devil incarnate in her son’s eyes. Pascual is accustomed to her constant belittlement and scorn of him. It is her cruelty toward her handicapped young son Mario, Pascual’s brother, that serves as the catalyst for Pascual’s growing resentment and hate. These emotions and her treatment of his second wife finally incite him to murder.
Rosario (roh-SAHR-ee-oh), Pascual’s beautiful younger sister, who is the only softening influence in the family. She is adored by her parents and by Pascual. Their lives are shattered when she runs away and becomes a prostitute. She returns home, ill with fever, and almost dies. The family...
(The entire section is 751 words.)