The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

There are three gravity points in this novel, each represented by a major character: the powerful, the disfranchised, and the spiritual. At the social level, they are created as stereotypes. At the individual level, each acquires his own voice through the technical device of the internal monologue. While this baroque characterization tends to disorient the reader, much of the novel’s vitality derives from the interplay between the external and internal experience of the characters.

Don Epifanio has dominated the landscape. A victim himself of the cacique image, he now carries on the tradition of the cardinal sins. He is gluttonous, greedy, insensitive, envious, proud, hard, and, ultimately, evil.

His cultural inheritance continues in Felipe and Jesús. There are no redeeming features in Felipe; his vengeance and malice are of a piece, and he fulfills adequately Yáñez’s design for him—as a projection of the external, cultural side of his father’s personality. Jesus is a loss, for his carefully wrought portrayal as the Snake reflects a lively intelligence, sensitivity, and psychological insight gone mad. In the language of the peasants, he is the devil’s very tongue.

With Jacob Gallo, the author completes his study of the various facets of the mano dura (ruthless justice) mentality. He suggests that this ingrained pattern not only refuses to yield to civilizing influences, but also seems, rather, to turn the benefits and promise of Progress into even more subtle forms of manipulation and dominance. Gallo beguiles the peasants with hope and an abrazo (hug) while he ravages them.

Yáñez broadens his study of the thwarting of human potential with the last figure under this category, Plácida. A half sister to the three men, she becomes the dominant personality in the Big House in the last years of Don Epifanio’s life. She matches any of the men for will, dominance, and greed; not for her is the sentimentality of her sisters as they wail...

(The entire section is 825 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Epifanio Trujillo

Epifanio Trujillo (eh-pee-FAH-nee-oh trew-HEE-yoh), an imperious landowner and patriarch, the father of approximately one hundred children by various mistresses. He has spent his life accumulating land, cattle, women, and children. Fat and lethargic in his old age, he comes under the complete domination of his daughter, Plácida. Because he failed to specify how his estate would be divided, he witnesses his heirs struggle among themselves for supremacy. His obsession with Teófila and his pursuit of her sewing machine leads to their destruction. After his death, his lands come under the control of the one son who had renounced his name, Jacob Gallo.

Miguel Arcángel Trujillo

Miguel Arcángel Trujillo (mee-GEHL ahr-KAHN-hehl), also called Jacob Gallo (GAH-yoh), the son of Epifanio Trujillo and Sara Gallo. He married against his father’s wishes, adopted his mother’s name, and sought his fortune elsewhere. Returning to his father’s domain as a wealthy landowner in his own right, he is determined to use his wealth and knowledge to bring progress to the lean lands. He wins the support of the peasants with proposals to dig new wells and provide fertilizers, better seed, and breeding animals. He outwits his half brothers and sister, acquires control of his father’s estate, and becomes the new authority in the lean lands.

Plácida Trujillo

Plácida Trujillo (PLAH-see-dah), the daughter of Don Epifanio and mistress of his house. As prudish as her father was licentious, she is coldhearted and cruel. Jacob Gallo saves her from the fury of the mob that burned down her father’s house. While in his custody, she repeatedly tries to commit suicide. In the end, she distributes her...

(The entire section is 800 words.)