The characters of Stones for Ibarra are revealed more profoundly by the stories told and observations made about them than by anything they themselves reveal—the deep cultural divide between villagers and expatriates is exposed. Though the eighteen chapters present numerous minor and apparently idiosyncratic characters, the narrative depends primarily on four central figures.
Richard Everton is an admirable character. A deeply moral man who cares for his workers and has some comprehension of his importance to the village as the employer of many men, Richard takes his illness and impending death in stride. When his wife Sara begins to embellish her tales of the locals’ lives, he intuitively understands that she hopes her storytelling can create a new and different story for her and Richard than the dark future the physician has given them.
Sara Everton is, like her husband, near forty and a secular humanist who believes in the power of the human individual rather than in any God or gods. Her beliefs are sorely tested by Richard’s leukemia and her inability to create a different future by simply imagining it. Sara’s attitude is in stark contrast to that of the villagers, who believe deeply in the one and only God but also in such folk remedies as herbs against maladies and a thorn to protect the house and mine.
Lourdes, the Evertons’ Mexican housekeeper, and Remedios Acosta, a village woman, interact with the strange Americans and report to the village on the foreigners’ curious behavior. They present and represent the Mexican perspective in contrast to the alien Evertons’ perspective. The village priest, Juan Gómez, appears almost exclusively as “the cura” rather than as a named individual. Though he appears frequently in many contexts, just as a true village priest would, he does not develop much as a character but rather serves as a catalyst to move the narrative forward and as a foil to the Everton’s atheism. At the end of the novel, Sara remains an atheist, but she has softened toward native practices, such as the placing of stones to mark the scene of a tragedy.