The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

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...

(The entire section is 559 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Guadalupe (Lupe) Fuentes de Guardado

Guadalupe (Lupe) Fuentes de Guardado (gwah-dah-LEW-peh FWEHN-tehs deh gwahr-DAH-doh), a forty-two-year-old, superstitious, earthy, traditional matriarch of a peasant family in Chalatenango, El Salvador. She displays a sense of humor, humaneness, and generosity in the account of a day in her life, in which she tells of her son Justino’s murder (by decapitation) by special military forces, the search for her granddaughter by the same forces, and the capture, beating, mutilation, and apparent murder of her husband. She speaks of her earlier ambivalence toward the Christian farmworkers’ federation to which many of her family members dedicate their lives. She reports being finally convinced that her husband’s concept of “awareness” (heightened consciousness) is appropriate for a class that must become self-reliant and demand its rights. Lupe is admired by the other townspeople for her strength and stoicism in the face of tragedy.

José “Chepe” Guardado

José “Chepe” Guardado (hoh-SEH CHEH-peh), an enthusiastic activist and leader in the Christian farmworkers’ federation, an excellent storyteller and folksinger capable of good humor and self-effacement. His association with the federation caused him to give up drinking and gambling. Chepe is seen as a great teacher and insists that the farmworkers must achieve a new awareness...

(The entire section is 643 words.)