Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 505
General Malacara (mahl-ah-KAH-rah), the highest ranking individual among the throng of former federal officials fleeing the capital by train. Like the other refugees who share the hospital car, he is a social parasite and a self-serving opportunist whose loyalty evaporates when his political faction loses control. His only concerns are escape, survival, and realignment. Because he is the most promising link to the protection of Francisco Villa, once the train is under way, everyone courts his favor. He makes promises of help only in the hope of gaining some advantage, and he rarely delivers. He is a debauched libertine. In spite of the perilous circumstances, he initiates a drunken party and publicly cavorts with Cachucha and Manuela, women young enough to be his granddaughters.
Marta Reyes-Téllez (RREH-yehs-TEH-yehs), a strong-willed, essentially silly, middle-aged widow who knows how to take care of her family. Even though she has never worked, she understands better than do her employed children the moral flexibility and hypocrisy required to secure and protect a government job. She believes that she and her family, because of their social and political connections, are morally superior to virtually all others.
Matilde Reyes-Téllez (mah-TEEL-deh), the older daughter of Marta. She arrogantly but mistakenly assumes that her place in society and her self-professed artistic talent will guarantee both her safety and her future.
Rosita Reyes-Téllez (roh-SEE-tah), the younger daughter of Marta. She uses her charms to manipulate men, but she lacks a will of her own.
Rubén Reyes-Téllez (rew-BEHN), the youngest of Marta’s children. He always follows his mother’s orders and Matilde’s lead. A manly but utterly gullible youth, he is attracted to those in powerful positions and allows their opinions to determine his behavior. His naïveté and simplistic machismo allow his mother and older sister to coerce him to remain in Irapuato, in spite of the extreme danger, to arrange the family’s future with the new administration.
Quiñones (keen-YOHN-ehs), a friend of Rubén who understands even less than Rubén of the social rules by which those in power expect their underlings to abide. An arrogant braggart, he demonstrates his careless disregard for Villa’s rules and for the well-being of others when he openly criticizes Villa knowing that some of Villa’s soldiers can hear him.
Dionacio Ríos (dee-oh-NAH-see-oh RREE-ohs), a prosecuting attorney for Villa’s government.
Señor Rubalcaba (rrew-bahl-KAH-bah), a corpulent federal schoolmaster. Like the novel’s other displaced functionaries, he is utterly bereft of the will to act. More disposed to irony than to anger, he can only sigh with resignation when soldiers make off with his beloved companion, Miss Aurora of the fourth grade.
Don Sinforoso (seen-foh-ROH-soh), the blustery former mayor of Turicato. Until he learns that military men are in grave danger, he claims to be a colonel in the federal army.