The Obscene Bird of Night Characters
by José Donoso

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Obscene Bird of Night Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Humberto Peñaloza

Humberto Peñaloza (ewm-BEHR-toh pehn-yah-LOH-zah), also known as Mudito (mew-DEE-toh), or “Little Deaf Mute,” who has served as Don Jerónimo Azcoitía’s secretary, the Azcoitía family historian, and the overseer of Don Jerónimo’s estate, La Rinconada. In the process, he has worked for the family most of his life. As a youth, in an effort to “be someone,” Humberto imagines a fusion between his personality and that of Don Jerónimo. Living in the family’s home for the retired female servants of rich families as the novel opens, Humberto serves as the story’s schizophrenic narrator-protagonist. He takes on multiple identities (including that of a female, a large papier-mâché head, and a phallus) before becoming, ambiguously, a sexless and timeless bundle. At the close of the novel, after centuries, the bundle’s contents are emptied and tossed on a fire, leaving nothing of Humberto but “the black smudge the fire left on the stones.”

Don Jerónimo Azcoitía

Don Jerónimo Azcoitía (hehr-OH-nee-moh ahs-koy-TEE-ah), a powerful and influential politician for whom Humberto works and with whom Humberto has fused his own personality. The relationship between the two is strangely symbiotic, as virtually all of Humberto’s power (limited as it is) derives from his relationship with Don Jerónimo, whereas Don Jerónimo’s sexual potency is mysteriously tied to his relationship with Humberto.

Doña Inés de Azcoitía

Doña Inés de Azcoitía (ee-NEHS), Don Jerónimo’s wife. A pious woman early in the novel, she works diligently to have the family’s home for retired servants beatified because of an eighteenth century miracle said to have occurred there. After returning from an audience with the pope, however—and, according to Humberto, after receiving the transplanted organs of her servant, Peta Ponce—she becomes an inmate of the home herself. Rather than dedicate the rest of her life to prayer, as she had intended, she sets about winning the belongings of her fellow inmates in a strange dog-racing game. After being sexually attacked by Humberto, she is taken away to an insane asylum.

Peta Ponce

Peta Ponce (PEH -tah pohns), a crafty servant woman and apparent possessor of demonic powers. Among her many bizarre activities is the mysterious encounter...

(The entire section is 600 words.)