The Palace of the White Skunks Characters

Reinaldo Arenas

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Palace of the White Skunks is the story of Fortunato and of the young man’s eccentrically frustrated and obsessive family: Polo, Fortunato’s grandfather, who considers himself cursed for having engendered only daughters; Jacinta, Fortunato’s superstitious and crazed grandmother; Digna, Celia, Onerica, and Adolfina, Polo’s and Jacinta’s daughters, all marginalized figures who desperately search for a space, either real or imaginary, in which to forget the misery of their existence. Together, on a structural level, the sisters function to articulate a psychotic and paranoic discourse that identifies the passive role assigned to women in Hispanic society. Their frustrated attempts to escape their suffocating fate only add to their sense of desperation. The sisters’ children, Esther (Celia’s daughter), Tico and Anisia (Digna’s son and daughter), and Fortunato (Onerica’s son), are all fatherless. On a spiritual level, Digna, Celia, Onerica, and Adolfina also are fatherless, since Polo rejects them because of their gender. Throughout the novel, these characters—or, rather, voices, for the text is constructed as a cacophony of voices—are given the opportunity to recount their own obsessive stories of despair.

In the novel, Fortunato pursues writing as a means to survive the continual oppression of his family and the conservatism of his hometown. He fabricates and invents imaginary refuges that take him away from his...

(The entire section is 530 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Fortunato (fohr-tew-NAH-toh), a sensitive and restless adolescent desperate to escape from a closed social and familial circle in which he feels trapped. He is the most complex character in the novel, fragmenting himself to give voice to the suffering of the other family members. As a writer, he creates and imagines other levels of reality to escape the poverty, hunger, war, intolerance, and prejudice around him. His failed attempt to join the rebel forces leads to his death at the hands of the government police.


Polo, Fortunato’s grandfather, an impotent patriarchal figure. A Spaniard who immigrated to Cuba from the Canary Islands looking for a better life, he is a frustrated and embittered old man disillusioned by the poverty and misery of the Cuban countryside. Moreover, wishing to have had boys to help him with his struggles, he considers himself cursed for having engendered only daughters. As an act of defiance, he resorts to silence, refusing to talk to anyone except Tomasico, the owner of the only factory in town. Through Polo’s chats with Tomasico and his interior monologues about the ups and downs of his fruit and vegetable stand, the reader becomes aware of the collective misery of the local economy.


Jacinta (hah-SEEN-tah), Polo’s wife, a Cuban peasant woman who must cope with the stresses...

(The entire section is 459 words.)