The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Celestino Yumí, a poor, simple wood gatherer, comes to vibrant life in the hands of Asturias. Yumí, dissatisfied with his hardscrabble existence, yearns for what his friend Timoteo Teo Timoteo has: land, horses, crops, and the respect of others. Though he bargains with the corn-husk devil for riches in exchange for his wife, Tazol has to convince him that Catalina has been unfaithful to him before he finally agrees. The irony of the bargain does not escape him, since one of the reasons he wishes to be rich is to be able to make life easier for his beloved wife. As he says to Tazol, “But I’m already weeping, with all my heart, because she’s my wife, the only thing I have and I’m going to give her to you, Tazol, just because she was unfaithful to me and because I want to be rich.”

Possessed of a shrewd native intelligence, though he professes otherwise, Yumí understands a hard truth: that the rich and powerful can do practically as they want and that the poor, the powerless, have no recourse but to accept it. Once rich, he acts accordingly, throwing his wealth around, parading it proudly in imitation of others he has seen. Impulsive by nature, he acts without regard to consequences, then allows those consequences to dictate his course of action.

Like the other human characters in the novel, Yumí is a victim, a pawn of natural and supernatural forces, but unlike the Mulata and Catalina, he does not struggle or attempt (past that of bargaining with Tazol) to control his surroundings. Treated with affection and understanding by Asturias, Yumí is seen as man without guile, easily led, perhaps, but whose basic motivation is his undying love for Catalina.

Through Yumí, Asturias portrays Catalina’s character as Yumí sees her. She is a good wife, uncomplaining when hungry, good at mending, supportive of his needs, and, best of all, happy and jolly. Yet this is not all that she is. When Yumí reclaims her from...

(The entire section is 799 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Celestino Yumí

Celestino Yumí (seh-lehs-TEE-noh yew-MEE), a poor woodcutter whose desires for riches and social position lead him to sell his wife, Catalina, to the corn devil, Tazol. Overwhelmed by passion, he marries the Mulata but cannot endure her. Disenchanted with his life as a rich man, he recovers Catalina and returns to his life as a poor woodcutter. Catalina convinces him to travel to Tierrapaulita so that she can become a great sorcerer. He undergoes several transformations. Catalina turns him into a dwarf and then into a giant. After the slingshot of Tazolín kills him, his body becomes a mountain range. He then represents Candanga. Under the guise of a pockmarked Indian, he accepts the challenge of the priest Chimalpín and becomes a hedgehog to attack him. The priest almost defeats Yumí, but the Mulata saves him. They are married in a Requiem Mass. After he dies in the second Tierrapaulita earthquake, the Mulata acquires his golden bones.

Catalina Zabala

Catalina Zabala (kah-tah-LEE-nah sah-BAH-lah), Yumí’s happy, uncomplaining wife. Through Yumí’s pact, she is abducted by Tazol. Yumí recovers her, but she is a dwarf. The Mulata treats her like a toy doll. After she imprisons the Mulata, Yumí loses Tazol’s favor. Her desire to become a sorcerer takes her and Yumí to Tierrapaulita. She becomes a powerful witch, changing Yumí into a dwarf out of revenge and then into a giant to prevent Huasanga from enjoying his love. She fails to end the Mulata’s hold on Yumí’s heart. She is buried alive in Tierrapaulita’s second earthquake.

The Mulata

The Mulata (mew-LAH-tah), a sensual, wild, and violent creature. Yumí impulsively marries...

(The entire section is 771 words.)