Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Juan Pablo Castel

Juan Pablo Castel (hwahn PAHB-loh kahs-TEHL), the narrator, a well-known and critically admired painter. Castel is a shy, thirty-eight-year-old, self-absorbed bachelor who has never established a satisfactory relationship with a woman. He sees María Iribarne in a gallery, seemingly transfixed by one of his paintings. He becomes obsessed with her, meets her again, and becomes her lover. As one reads Castel’s narration of these events, one finds oneself in the mind of a madman. Castel is an ultrarational yet warped person who shifts rapidly from some objective sense of himself and some ability to feel compassion to a paranoid personality full of anger and suspicion. Finally convinced that María is having an affair with Luis Hunter, he breaks into her room and stabs her to death. He is narrating these events in a mental hospital.

María Iribarne

María Iribarne (mah-REE-ah ee-ree-BAHR-neh), a beautiful, young, wealthy woman. She appears physically to be twenty-six years old, Castel says, but seems older to him in terms of her self-possession and personality. The reader only knows her as an enigmatic figure, described entirely by Castel. Castel, from his alienated isolation, decides that he never really knew her, but that they were moving in separate tunnels along parallel lines. In...

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The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Juan Pablo Castel is one of the most memorable creations of Latin American literature. From the very beginning of the novel, one is exposed to his frantic search for reason and order, his quest for some clue to the elusive reality of his chaotic existence. Every incident related to María causes a series of questions, digressions, options, and deductions. The writing and rewriting of letters confirm his belief in logic and precision. He constantly struggles between words associated with intuition, such as “feels,” “imagine,” and “sense,” and those linked to the intellect, “reason,” “order,” and “think.” This linguistic dilemma reveals the nature of the protagonist, torn between intuition and reason. Partly because of the narrator’s point of view, the reader feels drawn to the protagonist. The Outsider is a novel about Castel’s world, one in which external elements are insignificant. One is forced to imagine a great part of the stage and the characters of Castel’s drama. María Iribarne is an elusive and engimatic figure never projected but as a suspect of endless, never-proved acts of deception. The reader becomes acquainted with María’s reactions to Castel’s actions but ignores her motives. When the character of Allende is introduced, both Castel and Sábato focus the emphasis on his annoying blindness. Hunter is merely described as an insignificant writer and a womanizer.

Mimí Hunter, a character that Castel despises at first sight, is introduced as a skinny and nearsighted woman in order to communicate an unsympathetic feeling to the reader. While reading the novel, one is compelled to accept the protagonist’s distorted vision of the individuals around him and to share his detective-like suspicions of their actions.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Busette, Cedric. “La familia de Pascual Duarte” and “El túnel”: Correspondences and Divergences in the Exercise of Craft. Lanham: University Press of America, 1994. Little in English is available on Sábato; this study reveals some of his overall concerns, expressed also in The Outsider. Includes bibliographical references.

Oberhelman, Harley D. Ernesto Sábato. New York: Twayne, 1970. A good basic introduction to the author and his works, part of the publisher’s well-respected World Authors series. Bibliography.

Predmore, James R. A Critical Study of the Novels of Ernesto Sábato. Dissertation. Seattle: University of Washington, 1977. Although available only through Ann Arbor, Michigan’s University Microfilms, this overview is one of the few available in English.