No One Writes to the Colonel Characters
Here are the main characters in No One Writes to the Colonel:
- The colonel is at the heart of the novella. He is a generally patient man who waits for a pension that never arrives and who hopes his rooster will one day earn money for him and his wife. He lives under martial law and faces privation without any money from his pension. His son was killed for passing around subversive literature at a cockfight. He also believes in communitarian values and decides to keep the rooster for the benefit of the community.
- The colonel's wife is more practical than her husband, and she believes that they should sell the rooster to feed themselves. She is an asthmatic who suffers as a result of her illness.
- Augustin was their son, who was killed for passing around subversive literature.
- Don Sabas was the godfather of Augustin. He is the only member of his political party who has escaped persecution. Sabas is quite rich from making money through political corruption, and he lives in a two-story house. He also suffers from diabetes. Sabas is a dishonest man who tries to cheat the colonel out of the money he offers to pay him for the rooster.
- Father Angel is the local priest. He upholds the censorship laws of the government. He rings the church bells to announce the government censor's classification of movies. He then keeps track of who attends the movie against his warnings.
- The physician is an immaculate man in a white linen suit. He is unsure about the government's pronouncements and circulates his own covert news about what is going on in the country. He is a kind man who does not charge the colonel and his wife for treating her asthma and provides them with free samples.
The colonel is not only the protagonist of the novel, he is the novel, for it is his humor and irony, his pride and courage against the inexplicable adversity of poverty and political repression, that give the novel dignity and structure. This wise yet childlike man assumes a sort of tragicomic stature in the course of the narrative. Although he goes to wait for the mail boat every Friday with hopeful expectation, his resigned response is always the same: “No one writes to the colonel.” Although he is often self-effacing, reconciled to the repressive regime which controls his life, he maintains his pride. For example, he does not wear a hat so, as he says, “I don’t have to take it off to anyone.”
He is both idealistic and ironic, a combination that makes him memorable in contemporary fiction. When his wife says that he is only skin and bones, he replies that he is taking care of himself so he can sell himself: “I’ve already been hired by a clarinet factory.” When his wife laments that the mush they are eating is from corn left over from the rooster, and says, “That’s life,” the colonel replies, “Life is the best thing that’s ever been invented.” In some ways, the colonel resembles the existential hero as described by Albert Camus—holding out no hope for transcendent value but maintaining a kind of stoic acceptance of struggle regardless of the outcome. In modern fiction, his closest parallel is Ernest Hemingway’s fisherman, Santiago, in The Old Man and the Sea (1952). Although the colonel has nothing so tangible as a great fish with which to do battle, he is no less an example of a man who sustains “grace under pressure.”
The colonel’s wife, who alternates between being bedridden because of her asthma and being hyperenergetic, is more realistic about their situation than the colonel is and urges him to sell the rooster. She has less pride also, having no qualms about going about the village trying to barter household items for food. Finally, she says that she is fed up with resignation and dignity, and she bitterly tells the colonel, “You should realize that you can’t eat dignity.” The colonel has hope, however, about which he says, “You can’t eat it, but it sustains you.”
Sabas is the only leader of the colonel’s party who has escaped...
(The entire section is 1,329 words.)