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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 761

In this work, Fuentes presents an extended character study of Jaime Ceballos, an adolescent attempting to rebel against the hypocritical society in which his family lives. In the long run, he accepts his fate as a bourgeois and conforms to the wishes of his family.

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The setting of the novel is Guanajuato, Mexico, a provincial city in which every citizen is “a practiced, talented, certified hypocrite.” Jaime’s family lives in the social mainstream of this city of “pure compromise,” where appearance and conformity govern the actions of all good people. Soon after Jaime’s birth, his father, Rodolfo Ceballos, is relegated to a secondary position in the family household. The house is now run by Jaime’s aunt, Asunción Ceballos de Balcárcel, and her husband, Jorge Balcárcel, who have recently returned from England, where they had sought haven from the perils of the Mexican Revolution. Jaime’s mother, Adelina López de Ceballos, has been banished by Asunción, who considered her brother’s wife socially inferior, unfit to bear the Ceballos name. Also important in Asunción’s decision to remove Adelina is Asunción’s sterile husband’s inability to provide her with a child of her own. With Adelina gone and Rodolfo supplanted as head of the family, Asunción and Jorge see the young boy as “moral raw material.”

Though Jaime is reared to be a dutiful child in the calm and ordered household, he feels lonely and isolated. He finds solace in reading and religion, at one point even wanting to become a priest. When this idea is quickly snuffed out by his uncle, Jaime’s withdrawal into himself is assured. He turns to masturbation. Profoundly dissatisfied with the world that surrounds him, and wishing to commune with Christ, whom he believes will not abandon him, he masturbates at the feet of the bloodstained image of the Savior during Holy Week. Soon afterward, he comes across Ezequiel Zuno, a rebel miner on the run and hiding out on the Ceballos family property. Unlike Jaime’s posturing uncle Jorge, Ezequiel is a man of action. Jaime befriends the fugitive and promises to help him. When Ezequiel is taken away by the police, who have been called by Jaime’s uncle, the boy takes the guilt for Ezequiel’s betrayal upon himself.

Jaime’s only true friend is Juan Manuel Lorenzo, an intelligent Indian boy with whom he holds lengthy conversations. Because of Juan Manuel’s social status, Jaime’s family disapproves of the friendship, but Jaime, partly as a subconscious act of rebellion, continues to associate with the boy. On one occasion, Jaime accompanies Juan Manuel to a working-class bar, where he sees his real mother for the first time. Though Jaime realizes that the woman is his mother, he does not approach her and identify himself as her son; instead, he leaves, consciously rejecting her in...

(The entire section contains 761 words.)

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