Central to Son of Man is the juxtaposition of two main characters, Miguel Vera and Cristóbal Jara, or Kiritó.
Vera represents the intellectual who cannot completely become one with the oppressed, although he understands them and sympathizes with them. Vera is aware of the need for social revolution in Paraguay. Yet, because he is an introvert and a sentimentalist, he is unable to contribute to that revolution. He simply observes the tragedy of his people from the sidelines. Vera unwittingly becomes a Judas figure. He denounces his comrades, he shoots Kiritó, and at the end of the book, by becoming Itapé’s mayor, he even becomes an official member of the oppressors.
Kiritó is unquestionably the “son of man,” the Christ figure. Kiritó is a silent, uneducated man, the antithesis of Vera. He leads his people by the force of his character. He symbolizes the potential for the salvation of mankind by man himself. Kiritó sacrifices himself for his fellowmen, and he is fully conscious that this is his mission: “For now the only thing that mattered was to go on, always at all costs. . . . That was his destiny.”
Another Christ figure in the book is Gaspar Mora, a maker of musical instruments. Mora contracts leprosy and flees his village to protect his fellowmen from infection and to suffer in solitude his slow death. Mora represents the isolation of human beings, and his leprosy is a symbol of the suffering that he accepts in the name of the people. Yet Mora does not completely die. He remains among his people by leaving behind a part of himself. He carves a Christ image that resembles him, as a reminder of his generosity.
Many other characters populate the book, individual characters, mass-characters (entire communities), and the storyteller Macario Francia. Macario is the conscience of his country. He is a “bridge” between two generations, a living myth. Through his stories, he can propagate the popular wisdom in his native language, so rich in metaphors and symbols: “Man is like a river, my sons . . . a river which is fed by other rivers, and which in turn feeds them. It is a bad river which ends up in bog.”