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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 208

The characters in One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta focuses on the Salvadoran character of Guadalupe Guardado, who some other characters call “Lupe.” She was a middle-aged woman who did odd jobs to help her family survive right before the Salvadoran Civil War of 1979.

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Lupe’s husband was named “Jose.” He worked nearby for a rich owner of land in El Salvador. He ended up supporting the rebels during the Civil War, and as a result, he had to hide in the hillsides near their home. Eventually, he is captured by the government and sent away.

The Guardado’s also had a son named Justino. Before the events of the novel start, Justino is killed by the government. In a paper, for instance, one could write about how this sets up the fear of further tragedy in the narrative.

Another important character in the novel is Guardado’s granddaughter. Her name was Adolfina. She tells her parents and others in the novel about some of the atrocities of the government, such as how they killed Justino and other massacres. At the end of the novel, she is there when her grandfather, Jose, is brought to her by the authorities after Jose said her name while being beaten.

The Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 559

The characters in this novel are prototypes. They represent two of the several factions involved in the social turmoil in El Salvador. The principal group depicted is the peasantry. Lupe, Chepe, Adolfina, and all the minor characters representing the peasantry share many of the same traits: They are courageous, long-suffering, wise, gentle, generous, and loving. Lacking even the most basic amenities of existence, they manage to create lives and family units which radiate love, harmony, and dignity. They support one another in their mutual opposition to the rapacity of the rich landowners and the brutality of the authorities; they acknowledge the authority of the Church and honor the priests, whether these priests recommend patiently bearing their burdens or offer help and instruction in ways to cooperate and unionize to improve their lot.

Lupe is the archetypical matriarch, warm and loving to her family, pious and generous to the Church, steadfast and courageous to Chepe, her beloved husband. Chepe, in turn, is bold in asserting his rights, a natural leader of the community, where he works diligently to improve the living conditions for his family and the farm workers in the union. He faces danger bravely, endures suffering silently, and, like his son, suffers martyrdom at the hands of the brutal guards.

Adolfina is an intense, idealistic girl who represents an impassioned new generation arising amid the repression and the turmoil. She is determined to avenge and justify the deaths of the martyrs and the sufferings of the peasants at the hands of the authorities. In the final lines of the book, Adolfina imagines that she sees the corpse of the guard who has just taken her dying grandfather away. She assures Lupe that this vision “has to be true.”

The novel’s preoccupation with terrorism and misery precludes any expansive development of characters: The characters all tend to be flat, representing the idealized qualities and political leanings of the peasant class. Their relationships to one another are likewise lacking in emotional variety and authenticity.

The minor characters among the peasant group are scarcely differentiated from the major ones, except in having smaller roles. Their characteristics and behavior are much the same: The son and son-in-law of Chepe are cut from the same mold as he, and Lupe’s daughter is another staunchly brave and loyal matriarch in the making.

The only other characters with a substantial voice in the narrative are the guards, who wield authority over the peasants....

(The entire section contains 1410 words.)

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Critical Essays