The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Rafa Buenrostro, the autobiographical narrator of many of the sketches, is a splendid observer. Secure in his identity, he understands the people around him in Hinojosa’s Belken County. He also is ambitious and knows something of the world outside Belken’s circumscribed boundaries. He has served in the Korean War and is planning to attend the University of Texas at Austin; he also benefits from his position as the youngest son in a family of five. Rafa does more reporting than judging. He appreciates the circumstances of Belken County’s Mexican American citizens and understands the lapses and missteps they make.

Jehú Malacra is depicted from birth to young manhood. Losing his parents early, he is reared partly by Aunt Chedes Briones and grows up with his three cousins, Édu, Pepe, and Vicky. Vicky Briones distresses her mother by joining the circus, but her doing so enables Jehú to work with don Víctor in transporting circus props from town to town. Jehú becomes a solid citizen in Hinojosa’s later volumes and also develops into a person of some integrity who challenges his boss at the bank. In this volume, readers see Jehú as a circus roustabout and message carrier as he wrestles with the dilemmas people face reaching adulthood.

Emilio Tamez is presented in a brief sketch as someone to whom bad things happen. He lost his right ear in a barroom brawl, but before that, at age eleven, he slipped as he was jumping from wagon to wagon,...

(The entire section is 584 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Rafa Buenrostro

Rafa Buenrostro (RRAH-fah bwehn-ROH-stroh), whose name means “goodface,” the autobiographical narrator in many of the sketches. Rafa is a self-assured young man who has served in the military and soon will go to the University of Texas at Austin. He was born and reared in Belken County, but having been exposed to some of the world outside it, he realizes the need to make a break from its confines. He understands the people of the area, observing them carefully and presenting them with considerable objectivity. He usually reserves his judgments about others.

Jehú Malacara

Jehú Malacara (heh-HEW mahl-ah-KAHR-ah), whose name means “badface,” an orphan who comes of age. Jehú’s parents die before he reaches puberty, so he is reared with his Briones cousins. Through Vicky Briones, he is introduced to the life of the circus. He becomes don Víctor’s helper in transporting circus props from place to place.

Don Víctor

Don Víctor (VEEK-tohr), a former revolutionary. As a lieutenant colonel in the Mexican armed forces, he married a Mexican Jew, Lía Samaniego, by whom he had a son, Saúl. After an epidemic of Spanish influenza claims the pregnant Lía and their son, don Víctor retires from the military and eventually...

(The entire section is 573 words.)