The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The influence of Mayan literature on characterization in Men of Maize cannot be overstated. Asturias spent years studying anthropology and helped to translate the Mayan book of Genesis, or Popol Vuh. Many of the narrative features of this ancient manuscript filter into his indigenous novels. For example, character and chronological development in Men of Maize are minimal; the protagonists substitute for one another in what could be termed a character substitution principle. They are cast as friends or foes of the men of maize, and, for the most part, they are emblematic of behavior patterns. Gaspar Ilóm is a character whose portrayal evolves throughout the fiction without undergoing any psychological development. He fights for the communal values dear to the Indian in the first part of the novel, but in the chapters which follow he is portrayed as a mythic figure from a remote past, while other characters step into the limelight. The reader soon realizes that this novel does not have a hero in the conventional sense but rather a collective beneficiary, the men of maize, who profit from the moral teachings extolled by Asturias.

As the first part of the novel is typified by emblematic characters who do not develop in the traditional sense, the second part is noteworthy for the original characters who do. Here, Goyo Yic shines forth as an Everyman figure who has lost touch with the world of his forefathers. For this reason, he is...

(The entire section is 579 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Gaspár Ilóm

Gaspár Ilóm (GAHS-pahr ee-LOHM), an Indian guerrilla leader poisoned by the Machojóns. He fought against the maize growers, who were destroying the forests. The Indians believed that he rose from the dead to continue to curse those who burn down the forest to cultivate maize as a cash crop instead of treating it as a sacred food.

Piojosa Grande

Piojosa Grande (pee-oh-HOH-sah GRAHN-deh), the “Great Fleabag,” the wife of Gaspár Ilóm. She tried unsuccessfully to escape the massacre of her husband’s men with their son. According to Indian lore, she is the rain and her son is the maize.

Tomás Machojón

Tomás Machojón (toh-MAHS mah-choh-HOHN), an elderly landowner and maize grower. He believes himself and his son to be under the curse of the firefly wizards for having poisoned Gaspár Ilóm. He makes his peons burn land in the hope that he will see his dead son in the fires. In a fit of madness, he sets the maize fields ablaze. He is consumed in the fire, along with his wife, his men, and his hacienda.


Machojón, the son of Tomás Machojón who died in a fire on his journey to claim the hand of Candelario Reinosa. The peons claim that he appears in the flames whenever the forest is burned to clear the land to plant maize.

Candelario Reinosa

Candelario Reinosa (kahn-dehl-LAHR-ee-oh rra-NOH-sah), Machojón’s sweetheart. She was convinced that Machojón tried to visit her at night but could not see her.

Colonel Gonzalo “Chalo” Godoy

Colonel Gonzalo “Chalo” Godoy (gohn-SAHL-loh

(The entire section is 806 words.)