Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 389
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, 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 (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, 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 (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.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 856
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 finally, her mother-in-law, “an authoritarian and laconic lady.” To Marre, life has been a constant struggle to find herself in the face of the demands of an established order. To her, all of her “guardians” are one: “If all those people are not one single person and only one it seems to me a waste of nature and society to employ so many people to fulfill a single function: watching over my behavior and trying by all means to keep me subject to the order they embody.” Critics have identified Marre’s guardians as Spanish society or as civilization in general. Her struggle is the struggle for the authenticity of the self in the face of pre-established norms. Her psychological health depends on her conviction that she can realize her “journey.” That is why she tells Dr. Sebastian:You don’t see me having the strength to continue the trip and I don’t see myself as having the health to abandon it; once again because we’re witnessing the same circumstance from two rather different points of view. Both are situated in fear, it’s something both have in common; but I’m sure my fear is nothing but a package containing a conviction while the one you speak to me about is nothing but the last state before desperation.
Marre fears the selflessness that results in abandoning the search for the self; her determination to go on reveals a confidence lacking in Dr. Sebastian.
Dr. Sebastian lacks Marre’s optimism. He exists on the brink of despair, fearful of overstepping the limits of equilibrium and plunging into the void. Reared by an overbearing, destructive mother who threatened his sense of individuality, he became alienated. Medicine does not interest him, so he remains on the margin of his profession. His feelings of impotence are aggravated by his failure to please Maria Timoner, with whom he becomes infatuated while she is his patient, and by his marriage to a woman whom he does not love. Dr. Sebastian identifies three developmental stages: the age of instincts, the age of reflection, and the age of despair and alienation. To live peacefully, he argues, one must remain in the second and refuse to enter the third. Yet he is tormented by anguish and fear that push him to brink of crisis.
The abandoned boy who is Dr. Sebastian’s only patient appears only sporadically. Still, it is he who illustrates most clearly the feelings of rejection and confusion that permeate the novel. Deserted by his mother before he has reached the age of reflection, the boy suffers from arrested development which prevents him from engaging in the kind of self-analysis on which the others embark. From childhood, he has lived in a state of permanent alienation which shrouds a primal rage that finally explodes. It is significant that the novel begins with the description of Region and the mother’s departure and ends with the son’s outburst. In a sense, the boy is a prototype who embodies all the pain that moves the other characters.