The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia (Dr. Francia) is clearly the central figure of I, the Supreme. He is merely a voice in the text, an essence rather than concrete presence; he is never described physically. This essence, however, is extremely ambiguous, since it is formed from the different points of view in the novel. Ultimately, he emerges as a lonely, impotent, isolated, sick old man on his deathbed, raging to hang onto the power he formerly possessed and to justify his actions for posterity. The only power left to him is that of speech, and he attempts to use it to manipulate the reader’s attitudes in the novel. Unfortunately, he becomes trapped in his own contradictions and dies frustrated and unredeemed by history.

Policarpo Patiño is the dictator’s naïve personal secretary and constant companion. Like Francia, he is a disembodied voice in the text, portrayed as ignorant, simpleminded, extremely credulous, and superstitious. He serves as a kind of Sancho Panza to the dictator’s philosophical Don Quixote, a foil for his constant ramblings, self-justifications, and desire to “dictate.”

Juan Parish Robertson is a fictionalized reconstruction of a historical character. Presented through the dictator’s eyes, he represents everything that is negative about British colonialism, specifically the desire to make a fortune at the expense of the inferior colonials. An entrepreneurial adventurer, he is portrayed as weak and...

(The entire section is 584 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia

José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia (hoh-SEH GAHS-pahr rrohd-REE-gehs deh FRAHN-see-ah) the supreme dictator of the newly formed Republic of Paraguay. Although he is fundamentally a democratic idealist and believes in the models provided by the United States and France, his experience with the recently liberated population of Paraguay has frustrated his enlightened intentions. Because of his compatriots’ lack of education and the imperialist pressures from other emergent republican states such as Argentina and Brazil, he finds himself forced to assume increasingly greater dictatorial powers. Eventually, he succumbs to the seduction of absolute power, assumes the direct control of all areas of government, and withdraws into the secure isolation of his palace. He spends the majority of his time dictating orders to his subordinates and attempting to justify his betrayal of his own ideals. The last few weeks of his life are filled with a sense of decay and disintegration into absolute impotence and fear for his image in posterity.

Policarpo Patiño

Policarpo Patiño (poh-lee-KAHR-poh pah-TEEN-yoh), the dictator’s constant companion and personal secretary. Essentially a fearful, obsequious, hypocritical mouse of a man, preoccupied more with his creature comforts than with great ideals, Patiño transcribes Francia’s dictation and listens to his monologues on a variety of topics. Terrified of the dictator and his tempers, he spends his time contradicting himself in an effort to placate and ingratiate. He is also fond of narrating long tales taken from local superstition and gossip that both...

(The entire section is 755 words.)