Alberto the Poet captures the sympathy of the reader at the beginning of the book. A thinker rather than a doer, he must survive through his intelligence and wit in the rough school environment. He nevertheless proves disappointing in the end. He reveals the Circle’s secrets presumably to avenge his friend Ricardo’s death; he then, however, withdraws all charges—making it possible for school officials to close the investigation—revealing a selfish and cowardly nature. Alberto also disenchants the reader when he befriends and romances Teresa, whom he visits to deliver a message from her boyfriend, the Slave, who is unable to make the rendezvous in person because he has been grounded. The role of the bourgeois intellectual, the novel suggests, is to take the easy way out even if it means, as in this case, to be a traitor.
Jaguar, a petty thief and delinquent, impresses the reader with his strength, and with his control and leadership over the other boys. When he kills the Slave, he does so to protect the honor code of the Circle; yet, ironically, he is punished in the end not by the system itself but by his fellow cadets. Jaguar emerges as the only cadet with a firm set of laudable values and a willingness to suffer for the sake of a principle. At the end of the novel he rehabilitates himself, marries, and begins a life of middle-class respectability.
Ricardo the Slave is the professional victim, serving as prey even to his best friend,...
(The entire section is 463 words.)