The Tree of Knowledge Characters

Pío Baroja

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Andrés Hurtado

Andrés Hurtado (ahn-DREHS ewr-TAH-doh), a medical doctor. A permanent feeling of loneliness that became more acute after his mother’s death has made Andrés withdrawn, melancholy, and sad in appearance. He defines himself as a partisan of the Republican Party and as an upholder of the cause of the poor, but his true commitment is to literature and things intellectual. His main concern is to find a rational explanation for the formation of the world and, at the same time, for life and humankind. At the beginning of the novel, Andrés is attending his first medical classes at the Institute of San Isidro in Madrid. Despite the fact that Andrés does not show a profound calling for medicine, he continues his studies, completing his internship in the hospitals of Madrid, where he witnesses all forms of abuse and misery. Finally, he is graduated. After two disappointing and weakening experiences, one as a rural doctor and the other in a public hospital in Madrid, he weds an old friend, Lulú, and begins a new job as translator of technical papers for a journal. Later, other personal experiences lead him to the extreme decision to commit suicide.


Lulú (lew-LEW), Andrés Hurtado’s wife. Lulú is unattractive and has a caustic disposition, but she is intelligent, noble, and progressive in her thinking. Julio...

(The entire section is 512 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In The Tree of Knowledge, there is actually only one character who is the axis of the book. All others revolve around Andres. Dr. Iturrioz and Lulu are two channels through which Andres finds a mentor, someone capable of understanding and directing him. Although Andres does not always follow the advice of his uncle, he acknowledges the soundness of his opinions and ideas and is able to test his own on him. Thus, he proceeds on his quest, his vision of existence being constantly refined, modified, and reformulated in an active exchange of ideas with Dr. Iturrioz.

Lulu, on the other hand, represents love. While Andres benefits indirectly from Dr. Iturrioz’s years of life experience, Lulu presents him with the opportunity to taste the fruit of the tree of life (which, the reverse of the biblical admonition, will produce his death) and put his theory of love into practice. Together they undergo a positive transformation through the power of love, a transformation which momentarily stops the growth of his pessimism and almost rescues him from the extreme discomfort of living. It is through his feelings for Lulu, rather than his intellectualizing about life, that he at last finds the way to happiness, only to lose it again.

There are also numerous stereotypes which function as a group to achieve the same end in the text: to portray Spanish society of the period. Most of them are not likable; none is profound or developed. Using the deformation and exaggeration characteristic of satire, the author instantly conveys the multiplicity of negative aspects present in that reality which contribute to its sorry state. From the quixotic to the repulsive, the pathetic to the tyrannical, the human material which is the real identity of a nation does not seem to offer much hope for the future or even consolation for the present.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Baeza, Fernando. Baroja y su mundo, 1961 (two volumes).

Baroja, Pío. Youth and Egolatry, 1920.

Shaw, D.L. “Two Novels of Baroja: An Illustration of His Technique,” in Bulletin of Hispanic Studies. XL (1963), pp. 151-159.