Characters Discussed

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Luis Alberto Molina

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Luis Alberto Molina (lew-EES ahl-BEHR-toh moh-LEE-nah), a window dresser imprisoned for the corruption of a minor. Molina is a homosexual who views himself as a woman; he even refers to himself as a girl. He believes that in any relationship he has with a man, that man should be dominant, while Molina, as the female figure, should be passive. He has an exceptional memory for films, and he entertains and distracts Valentin by telling the story lines of romantic films that he has seen. Warmhearted and caring, Molina nurses Valentin, who becomes ill after eating the doctored prison food. Molina then cleverly prevents Valentin from eating the prison food by having the warden give Molina food as a cover for Molina’s absences from the cell. Even Molina’s efforts to be released from jail are not out of selfishness; he is concerned about his mother’s weak heart. At the same time, he cannot betray Valentin, whom he has come to love. It is Molina’s selflessness (and perhaps his need to die as a “heroine”) that leads him to sacrifice himself to Valentin’s revolution.

Valentin Arregui Paz

Valentin Arregui Paz (vah-lehn-TEEN ah-RREH-gee pahs), a revolutionary who is being held indefinitely as a political prisoner. Valentin is in many ways the exact opposite of his cellmate, Molina. Valentin is a “man’s man,” and he believes that emotions are a weakness that, as a revolutionary committed to his cause, he cannot afford. A change occurs in his personality, however, when he finally admits that he is not pining for his equally politically committed girlfriend but, rather, that he intensely misses his former lover, Marta, who had no interest in politics, only in love. Molina’s storytelling helps Valentin to become gradually less repressed, and he becomes gentler toward Molina, culminating in the kiss he gives Molina the night before Molina’s release.

Themes / Characters

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Through the two characters, Molina and Valentin, Puig presents a number of oppositions, many of which have appeared in previous novels. In particular, he draws the usual contrast between the sensitive, creative, effeminate character and the strong, coldly reserved man of action, in this case the solitary revolutionary who suppresses his desire for personal gratification for the sake of his political goals. Characteristically, Valentin pores over his political science books while Molina helps them both pass the time by telling stories from movies — the more fantastic, the better. Again the theme of escapism versus commitment to positive action surfaces together with the inevitable question of the role of the artist. As Molina relates one of his favorite films, a story that takes place in Nazi-occupied France, Valentin objects that it is an unconscionable piece of Nazi propaganda. If this fact has even occurred to Molina, it is not an issue that would hinder his enjoyment of the picture, for the romantic heroine appeals to his imagination. Thus, the important issue of the responsibility of art to represent truth and morality is raised, but not resolved.

Undoubtedly Molina, who arranges for clean sheets and exotic foods and who helps the hours pass quite pleasantly with his movie stories, represents a quality of imagination that makes life bearable. He gilds reality and transforms the prison cell into a haven. So what, one might ask, is wrong with sustaining such a world of illusion? Perhaps, Puig suggests, imagination is all there is. Valentin, on the other hand, is so committed to his idealistic political vision that he refuses to allow himself even the illusion of love because it would distract him from the more important business of the revolution. Valentin is rigorous in his demands on himself and expects others to live with the same moral rectitude. Furthermore, his loyalty is to a...

(The entire section contains 1600 words.)

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