Last Updated on August 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 525
"Tell Them Not to Kill Me" is a short story by Mexican author Juan Rulfo. The tale outlines an escalating conflict between neighbors that results in a murder. After a lengthy cover-up of more than thirty years, the perpetrator of the crime is finally brought to justice and executed by firing squad. The small cast of characters in this short story is outlined below.
The Juvencio is the sixty-year-old protagonist of the story. Juvencio is about to be executed and begs for his life, despite the heinous nature of his thirty-five-year-old crime. Juvencio's crime is described in a lengthy flashback. Juvencio was the dishonest, lazy neighbor of Don Lupe in the Mexican village of Alima. After destroying his neighbor's fence to allow his animals to pasture on Don Lupe's land, Juvencio brutally murders his neighbor with a machete but lives the rest of his life in fear of being caught.
Juvencio's fear of death rules his life. For example, he runs to the hills and hides for days every time a stranger appears in town, fearing that it will be someone searching for justice. In the end, Juvencio is executed by Don Lupe's son for his crime.
The son of the murderer, Justino, is reluctant to help his condemned father. Justino appears at the beginning of the plot and refuses to ask the Colonel for mercy because he fears that he will be executed as well. At the end of the tale, Justino ties his father's bullet-riddled corpse to the back of a donkey and returns home.
Guadalupe Terreros (Don Lupe)
Don Lupe is the neighbor of Juvencio and the murder victim in the story. Although details are scant, Don Lupe appears to have treated Juvencio Nava fairly before his murder. Don Lupe repaired his vandalized fence multiple times and politely requested that Juvencio stop pasturing his animals on his land. Don Lupe also explicitly warned Juvencio of the consequences of continued grazing on the farm. Guadalupe Terreros suffers a grisly end, as he is hacked with a machete and stabbed with an ox goad. He lives on in agony for two days and, when he is finally found, begs that "his family be cared for."
The Colonel (Don Lupe's Son)
The name of Don Lupe's son is never revealed, but he is referred to as "the Colonel" throughout Rolf's story. We do know that, after his mother's death (caused by grief), Don Lupe's son is sent, along with a sibling, to live with distant relatives. Upon learning that his father was murdered, the son burned with the desire for justice. He says:
I can't forgive his still living. He should never have been born.
It is a desire for vengeance that brings him back to Palo de Venado to oversee the execution of Juvencio Nava by firing squad.
Not much is revealed about Juvencio's wife other than the fact that she left him due to his odd behavior after the murder. Juvencio allows her to leave "without a fight."
The unnamed sergeant arrests Juvencio and brings him to the Colonel. He also questions Juvencio about his past and the murder.