Chattanooga Choo-Choo

(Great Characters in Literature)

Sylvia Corday

Sylvia Corday, a tall, slender professional model with the perfect artificial beauty of a mannequin. While her husband is away, she enters Anselmo’s room without eyes, mouth, or arms. After they make love, Sylvia asks Anselmo to give her a mouth by cutting one out of red paper. She then directs him to draw in the rest of her face on her head, which resembles a featureless egg. After they make love a second time, Sylvia removes Anselmo’s penis with vanishing cream. She becomes a friend of Magdalena, Anselmo’s wife. Sylvia teaches her how to disassemble her husband, pack him into a suitcase, and reassemble him at will. She also initiates the swapping of their husbands’ penises.

Anselmo Prieto

Anselmo Prieto (pree-EH-toh), the narrator and Magdalena’s husband. He is obsessed with the need to control women. He becomes attracted to Sylvia when he finds her incomplete and helpless in his room. Giving Sylvia a mouth and creating her face with makeup demonstrates to him that a woman’s being depends on man’s will. When he realizes that his penis is gone, he attacks Sylvia and removes her face with vanishing cream. He considers psychiatric treatment to restore his virility, but guilt and fear of revealing his impotence make him decide against it. He ignores Ramón’s warnings and is disassembled by Magdalena without his knowledge. After she reassembles him, he discovers that he is whole again but still does not realize that his wife can disassemble him again at will.

Magdalena Prieto

Magdalena Prieto (mahg-dah-LEHN-ah), the seemingly timid and submissive wife of Anselmo. She learns from Sylvia the technique for dismantling Anselmo. She packs the pieces of Anselmo’s body in a suitcase, safeguarding his penis in a small velvet bag in her purse. She takes the suitcase with her when she meets Sylvia for coffee.

Ramón del Solar

Ramón del Solar (rrah-MOHN dehl soh-LAHR), an architect and Sylvia’s husband. He tries to warn Anselmo about what Sylvia is teaching Magdalena.