The Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 463

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.

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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, Alberto. His reactions, and even his fate, are somewhat predictable, insofar as he serves as the scapegoat for all that is wrong or goes wrong within the school. He is not, however, without some redeeming nobility. He informs, not because he is a coward and wants revenge against his abusers but because he wants to be away from the school, even for a short time, to see Teresa, who has shown him tenderness and humanity.

Gamboa, the rigid disciplinarian and stoic good soldier is, deep down, a decent, just, and loving individual, devoted to his family and to the best ideals of a military life. The book reveals, nevertheless, that there is no room for such individuals in the army, except in some remote region of the country where they cannot threaten the system or, even inadvertently, expose the corruption within it.

Teresa, the only developed female character of the novel, has no distinct personality and is not a very believable human being. In fact, she seems to exist, in part, to join and perhaps equalize emotionally the three principal characters of the novel, Alberto, Jaguar, and the Slave, and to serve as the desirable “nice girl” counterpoint in the otherwise rather raunchy sexual fantasies of the adolescent boys.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 835

Porfirio Cava

Porfirio Cava (pohr-FEE-ree-oh KAH-vah), a cadet in the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Lima, Peru. A highlander with a peasant background, he has chosen to attend the academy because he plans a career in the military. He is one of four members of “the Circle,” a group of cadets formed for mutual protection and support. After a losing roll of the dice, he is obligated to steal a chemistry examination for the Circle. During the late-night theft, he accidentally breaks a window. This evidence, coupled with information supplied by the informant Arana, leads to his court-martial and expulsion, ending his chance for a career in the military and the concomitant improvement in economic and social status.

Alberto Fernández Temple

Alberto Fernández Temple (ahl-BEHR-toh fehr-NAHN-dehs TEHM -pleh), the Poet, the bourgeois intellectual of the Circle, a cadet whose wit and skill at writing love letters and pornographic stories are admired by the other cadets. His father is a...

(The entire section contains 3824 words.)

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