Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Aurelio Rumbal

Aurelio Rumbal (oh-REE-lyoh rewm-BAHL), or Rombal, or Rubal, or Robal, a revolutionary who has been to America and has come back to Región. He is a teacher in a high school, an intellectual who, with his wife, prepares the intellectuals of Región for a confrontation with conservative forces. The multiple names by which he is known provide a clue to the nature of all the characters: The author is giving a blurred picture of men and women seen through the veil of memory.

The Intruder

The Intruder, a newcomer to Región. He appears with a golden coin; he is representative of the outsiders who will dispute the rights of the natives of Región to their land. He has been working in a mine, and on most nights he goes to play with the young people in town, among them Gamallo.


Gamallo (gah-MAH-yoh), one of the players at the game of cards with the Intruder. He loses all of his wealth and, ultimately, his fiancée, María Timoner. She accepts her fate and goes with the Intruder.

Marré Gamallo

Marré Gamallo (mah-RAY), Gamallo’s daughter, now a commander of the Nationalist Army trying to reconquer the territory of Región. She is a hostage of the Republicans, and she becomes the lover of Juan de Tomé, one of the leaders on the Republican side.

Doctor Daniel Sebastián

Doctor Daniel Sebastián (seh-bas-TYAHN), a physician who established a clinic in Región. He devotes all of his care to only one patient, the Boy.

The Boy

The Boy, a mentally retarded youth who has been left to the care of Doctor Sebastián and Adela, his maid. The Boy will spend the period of the Spanish Civil War waiting for the return of his mother; at the end, after Adela has died, he will kill Doctor Sebastián.

The Numa

The Numa (NEW-mah), a mythical guardian of the region, a figure whom no one has seen but who nevertheless dominates the imagination of the people. The legends that surround him explain that nobody is safe in his territory because he hunts and kills trespassers. The fact that he has killed his father enhances his mythical leadership among the people, who incessantly recount his exploits, feeling that they are safe under this vigilante.

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although Numa never appears, he is a pervasive presence throughout the novel. He reaches mythical proportions, transcending time and definition, for no one knows his origins, and no one has ever seen him. As befits a myth, he is the object of faith and conjecture—faith because the townspeople believe absolutely in his ability and authority to maintain order and conjecture because many stories circulate regarding his true identity. His domain is marked by a sign that reads: “No Trespassing—Private Property.” Yet every year, Numa collects his tribute as some hapless tourist or explorer wanders into the hills and the townspeople, like participants in a sacred rite, gather to wait for the shot that will inevitably follow.

Like all mythic figures, Numa encompasses the values of those who create him. He is the archetype of the fierce, stubborn, and hostile shepherds who inhabit the area. As guardian of Region, he “protects” the decay and ruin, eliminating any challenge to the status quo. He is associated with death and silence, for the echo from his gun is followed invariably by an eerie stillness that announces the return to order. Some critics have identified Numa with General Francisco Franco and Region with Spain. Numa, however, is an ahistorical figure whose essence transcends the moment. He is symbolic of that area of human existence that humans cannot penetrate. He is guardian of the labyrinth of feelings that, if explored, kills the explorer with confusion and despair. The townspeople, who lead safe, ordered lives, know better than to venture into Numa’s domain. Those, such as Marre and Luis, who defy authority and convention by giving free rein to their emotions, risk death.

Marre’s journey to Region symbolizes her search for her own identity and, in a broader sense, man’s search for himself. Since girlhood, she has been subjected to the iron will of others: in the convent, the nuns; during the war, the comrade Adela, “a robust woman, disciplined and intransigent”; after the war, Muerte (literally, death), the proprietress of the brothel; and...

(The entire section is 856 words.)