Under the Volcano Characters
by Malcolm Lowry

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Geoffrey Firmin

Geoffrey Firmin, formerly the British consul to Quauhnahuac, Mexico. He has resigned from the consular service and attempts to find a way not to return to England. When Geoffrey’s mother died, Geoffrey’s father remarried, and shortly following the birth of Hugh, Geoffrey’s half brother, the father walked away from the family. Geoffrey tried a career in the military prior to joining the consular service, but that, too, fell through. Geoffrey finds himself always forcing himself out of personal relationships. During the one day covered by the novel, Geoffrey demonstrates his inability to come to terms with his personal relationships with his wife, Yvonne; his half brother, Hugh; and his friend, Jacques Laruelle. Geoffrey’s one escape is his drinking. His greatest distress is that his brother, Hugh, and friend, Jacques, have committed a sin greater than one against marriage, one against blood. Geoffrey is executed by Mexican officials who accuse him of espionage.

Yvonne Firmin

Yvonne Firmin, Geoffrey’s wife. Yvonne appears after a one-year absence, during which she secured a divorce from Geoffrey. Like Geoffrey, she is unable to come to terms with her relationship with her spouse and Hugh and Jacques, two men with whom she has had affairs. Prior to her death by being trampled by a runaway horse, Yvonne is the force that brings the three other major characters together.

Hugh Firmin

Hugh Firmin, Geoffrey’s half brother and Yvonne’s former lover. A leftist journalist who has returned to Quauhnahuac to write an article for the London Globe, he also appears to be a gun runner for the Spanish loyalists. Hugh shows his personal makeup when he discloses that he has long been bothered by leaving Quauhnahuac without ever experiencing Yvonne’s agony for betraying Geoffrey. Not knowing of the couple’s separation, Hugh has returned to Mexico as much to see Yvonne as to see his brother.

Jacques Laruelle

Jacques Laruelle, a French film director. His role is to recount the story of the day of Geoffrey and Yvonne’s deaths. Jacques spent a period of his youth with Geoffrey and Hugh; therefore, he is considered one of three brothers. Like Hugh, Jacques commits adultery with Geoffrey’s wife. His aim is to make a French version of the Faustus story, similar to the version he witnesses in the life of Geoffrey Firmin. During his conversation with Señor Bustamente in the cinema, Jacques reacquires the copy of Elizabethan plays Geoffrey loaned to him and finds a letter Geoffrey had written to Yvonne, imploring her to return, but that he never mailed.

Señor Bustamente

Señor Bustamente (bews-tah-MEHN-tay), the manager of the cinema. During his conversation with Jacques, he discloses that he suspects that Geoffrey may be more than he is; he may, in fact, be a spy. He gives Jacques the copy of Elizabethan plays Geoffrey had loaned to Jacques.

Dr. Arturo Diaz Vigil

Dr. Arturo Diaz Vigil (ahr-TEW-ro DEE-ahz VEE-hihl), who met Geoffrey only once. During their meeting, Dr. Vigil recognized that of all the people with whom he came into contact, Geoffrey was the only one who had absolutely no one waiting or caring for him.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Geoffrey Firmin — the Consul — may be the supreme exemplar in modern fiction of self-knowledge that is cut off from the ability to act. The Consul, with Melville's Bartleby, Dostoevski's Underground Man, and Camus's Stranger, simply chooses not to — not to act, not to alter his course for love, not to save himself. The Consul's opportunities to requite his estranged wife Yvonne's offer of love raise questions of utmost significance to his existence as a free agent. It is only by willing his own destruction that he can assert his freedom of choice. "To this end," wrote Stanley Jedynak, "it is necessary for the Consul to reject all offers of human salvation . . . They are spurious offers because not in touch with the supreme reality of death and with the sense of chaos . . . at the bottom of everything." Human options...

(The entire section is 1,129 words.)