The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Esperanza, the least developed of the main characters, is presented in the role of surrogate caregiver and stabilizing influence in the family. Representative of many modern women who recognize the difficulty of maintaining both a career and a meaningful relationship, Esperanza is a successful journalist struggling to reconcile her personal needs, her political beliefs, and her professional responsibilities. The most politically active of the daughters, Esperanza functions as the novel’s social conscience. Her death while covering the Persian Gulf War transforms her into a heroic symbol of outrage at death without dignity. Esperanza is both a martyr to and a symbol of the consequences of the United States’ misguided foreign policies.

Presented as the passive victim of an unfaithful husband, Caridad resorts to nightly drinking and anonymous sex to deal with her failed marriage. Her mutilation, restoration, and exile are all simply preludes to her ultimate discovery that “falling in love . . . now that was something else altogether.” Caridad comes to embody the redeeming power of love as she voluntarily sacrifices herself for another. The principal thematic elements—the blurring of the lines between the mythic and the everyday, and the transforming power of heroism and love—come together in the final, simultaneously selfless and self-affirming act of Caridad and Esmeralda.

Initially the least sympathetic of the four daughters, Fe is...

(The entire section is 566 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Sofía (soh-FEE-ah), the protagonist, the mother of four daughters. She was born into an old and respected family in New Mexico that was heir to Spanish land grants. Sofía elopes at the age of eighteen with Domingo, a handsome young gambler. She gives birth to four daughters at three-year intervals, is abandoned by her husband (after she asks him to leave), and supports her family in her rural home by butchering pigs and lambs to sell at her “Carne Buena Carniceria” (Good Meat Butcher Shop). At the age of fifty-three, she becomes the titular mayor of Tome by developing and orga-nizing sheep and cattle cooperatives to improve the economic condition of the town’s people. She survives all four of her daughters.


Esperanza (ehs-pehr-AHN-sah), Sofía’s eldest daughter. A radical Chicana activist during her college years, she earns a master’s degree in communications and becomes a TV news journalist.


Caridad (kah-ree-DAHD), Sofía’s second daughter. The beauty of the family, she marries her high school sweetheart, but his infidelity moves her to leave him shortly after the wedding. She drowns her sorrow in alcohol and men until her nightly bar adventures are cut short by a savage attack that leaves her mutilated and near death. After a miraculous recovery, she becomes...

(The entire section is 523 words.)