The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Infante’s Inferno is composed like a film, in a series of vignettes, readily comparable to stills or to cinematic portraits. Read as a series of character portraits rather than as a series of events, these vignettes give the illusion of flow, of motion across time and space. They are further harnessed together, since all the portraits are shot by the same camera, which is the narrator’s eye. He is twelve years old when the action starts and in his thirties when it ends, but since the narrative (ostensibly autobiographical) is presented from an adult perspective, the boy has many of the perceptions of the grown man and all the foreknowledge that only hindsight can provide. He is lustful, hilarious, perpetually unsatisfied, a body hunter in the dark jungle of theaters. As he grows older, he trades the classroom for the school of life, careening through Havana in hot pursuit of skirts. Most women escape him; they are described in fleeting, if memorable, vignettes. At least three of them accept his overtures, however, and their character portraits are the longest and most developed in the book. The first is Juliet Estévez, the girl who provides the narrator’s sexual initiation. An ardent devotee of art and a body worshiper, Juliet is both liberated and liberating, a free spirit whose deepest physical pleasure comes from making love to the accompaniment of Claude Debussy’s La Mer. The next woman to fall for the hero’s fanciful line is Honey...

(The entire section is 443 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, a self-proclaimed Don Juan and a lover of the cinema, serving as both the camera’s eye and its operator in the novel, recording his coming of age in Havana. He selects and reports memories from the past and gives a “continuous showing” of Havana viewed in its physical setting. Streets, buildings, parks, and neighborhoods are named and located in terms of their proximity to some thirty-five motion-picture theaters of the city and its surrounding area. The plot progresses from descriptions and fantasies to platonic love, rites of passage, and sexual relationships. The narrator passes through many levels of erotic involvement with women in his quest for happiness.


Zoila (soh-EE-lah), the narrator’s mother, described as a “beautiful Communist.” Besides instilling in her son a love for the cinema, she also instills a fear of sexuality, particularly of sexually transmitted diseases. She is the matriarch of the household and has a powerful influence over her son’s responses to life and to sexuality. As her son reaches adolescence, he must break this close attachment to forge his own identity.

Margarita del Campo

Margarita del Campo (mahr-gah-REE-tah), also known as Violeta del Valle (vee-oh-LEH-tah dehl VAH-yeh), an actress, a...

(The entire section is 511 words.)