The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The most developed character, and the only one to experience any degree of change, is Jaime, whose personality is vividly revealed through the actions that characterize his personal rebellion. The reader watches Jaime develop from lonely child, to rebellious adolescent, to conforming young adult. Though he evokes the sympathy of the reader at the outset, his consistently self-centered actions gradually cause him to lose that sympathy. While the reader is able to understand the principle behind the boy’s bizarre communion with the Christ figure, later actions, particularly his refusal to approach his mother and his ostentatious martyrdom, make the reader realize that he is posturing in his behavior as much as the other members of his family.

Asunción and Jorge are the chief antagonists in the story. Though not nearly as well developed as Jaime, both are presented as individual human beings rather than stereotypes. While Asunción is masterfully portrayed as the scheming, domineering woman of the family, it is Jorge who is the more interesting of the pair. In fact, Jorge is almost comic in his role as the personification of the hypocritical society with which he seems to have a symbiotic relationship. Revealed throughout the work as a man obsessed with himself (“He only loved Jorge Balcárcel”), it is fitting that when he is spotted dancing in the brothel, he is not dancing with a partner but with himself.

Behind the three main characters...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Jaime Ceballos

Jaime Ceballos (HI-meh seh-BAH-yohs), a boy brought up in the household of his aunt and uncle in the provincial Mexican city of Guanajuato. Rebelling against their tight-lipped upper-middle-class conformity, Jaime seeks a deeper, more personal experience of Catholicism than is offered by his family’s conventional piety and begins to develop intellectual curiosity and a social conscience. He is, however, unable to put his principles into action. Notably in late adolescence, when he comes across his mother—long removed from the family because of her humbler class origin and unsophisticated attitudes—he cannot bring himself to approach her. Shortly thereafter, he abandons his ideals and resolves to conform to the role of heir to the family fortune. This decision is marked by an act of gratuitous violence: Jaime kills his aunt’s house cat.

Asunción Ceballos de Balcárcel

Asunción Ceballos de Balcárcel (ah-sewn-see-OHN seh-BAH-yohs deh bahl-KAHR-sehl), Jaime’s aunt and surrogate mother, the descendant of a mercantile and landowning family of nineteenth century Spanish origin. Back with her husband from England (where they lived for more than a decade to escape the chaotic phases of the Mexican Revolution), she sees to it that Jaime’s mother leaves the family circle so that she, Asunción, can rear the boy. Her husband, Jorge, is sterile, as is her relationship with him; surrogate motherhood gives Asunción some measure of fulfillment. In her frustration, she is even drawn to Jaime sexually when he reaches adolescence. Asunción and Jorge seek to control Jaime’s development with the help of obliging priests.

Jorge Balcárcel del Moral

Jorge Balcárcel del Moral (HOHR-heh bahl-KAHR-sehl dehl moh-RAHL), Jaime’s uncle, a...

(The entire section is 844 words.)