The Fragmented Life of Don Jacobo Lerner Characters

Isaac Goldemberg

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In The Fragmented Life of Don Jacobo Lerner, the events of the characters’ lives and their own qualities are revealed gradually through four kinds of narration, which alternate as the book progresses. The most objective narrative consists of quotations from the public record—from the birth registration of Efraín, for example, or from Jewish Soul, whose social notes, pleas for taking Peruvian citizenship, and historical comments on past persecutions reveal the always nervous background of the Jewish community and its attempts to attain some feeling of security in an alien society. In addition, dated “Chronicles” reveal public events and private musings in a stylized objectivity. Interspersed with this deliberately emotionless material are third-person accounts, sometimes with limited omniscience. The fourth method, and the most revealing, is the dramatic monologue. Because the monologues are not chronologically ordered but are interspersed among the chronological quotations and “Chronicles,” there is an alternation between chronological narration and psychological narration which produces suspense somewhat in the mode of a murder mystery. Events are discovered, and therefore characters must be reinterpreted, or characters are revealed by their reactions to events which have already been discovered.

For example, as the protagonist, Don Jacobo appears first as a rather weak man who has seduced and abandoned Bertila. Later,...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Jacobo Lerner

Jacobo Lerner, a Jewish businessman. After leaving Russia as a young man, he settles in Peru, where he attempts to start a business and marry a nice Jewish girl. He has to abandon his first store, however, because in a moment of weakness he gets a Catholic girl pregnant, and he cannot marry her. Eventually, he becomes prosperous as the owner of a brothel. He cannot marry the woman he loves because she is already his brother’s wife; her sister, his second choice, breaks their engagement. When he becomes ill, those very people to whom Jacobo has been so generous are interested only in the financial implications of his death. At the age of forty-two, he dies.

Bertila Wilson

Bertila Wilson (behr-TEE-lah), the mother of Jacobo’s son. A shy girl of seventeen when she first meets Jacobo, she is so ignorant that she believes all of his invented adventures and is easily seduced. After Jacobo refuses to take in their son, she turns against the child.

Efraín Wilson

Efraín Wilson (eh-frah-EEN), the illegitimate son of Jacobo Lerner and Bertila Wilson. A sensitive, confused boy, he is loved only by his great-aunt Francisca, who has told him that his father is dead. When he becomes aware of his Jewish background, however, he is abandoned by her and by the priest. Eventually, he goes mad and is kept in seclusion.


(The entire section is 600 words.)