Macario is main character of the story that bears his name. He is a unique character in one of Rulfo’s most unique tales. What we can gather about Macario comes exclusively from what he tells us in his monologue, which is narrated in a style that could be characterized as “stream of consciousness.” We know he lives with his Godmother and Felipa, and that his parents have died. As the town “idiot” he is a social outcast and apparently has been adopted by the Godmother and Felipa.
Felipa is one of the two women Macario lives with, and we only learn about her through his words. He tells us she has green eyes. We get the impression that Felipa is a housekeeper and cook for Godmother. She is closer to Macario’s age than the Godmother and he likes her best because she treats him well and often gives him her food at mealtimes. Although they are not family, when she feeds him her breast milk and subsequently “tickles” him one gets the sense that their connection sometimes borders on incest.
She is the more severe of the two women Macario lives with. Macario tells us she has black eyes. She is still good to him but he prefers Felipa. She ties his hands with her shawl when he is at church to prevent him from making a scene and threatens him with descriptions of hell when he misbehaves.
The narrator (“They Gave Us the Land”)
The narrator is just one of a number of men who have been given the infertile, desert-like Big Plain as their share of redistributed land following the Revolution. He tells us in first person how he and three companions cross the Big Plain looking for a suitable place to plant their crop. He tells us about the men’s conversation with the unsympathetic government official who gave them the land and describes the arid, desolate conditions they confront on the plain before arriving at the town on the other side.
Esteban (“They Gave Us the Land”)
Like the other peasants in “They Gave Us the Land,” Esteban has been given the Big Plain as his share of the redistributed land after the Revolution. Esteban stands out in this group because he his carrying a red hen under his coat. He is very protective of the hen and has brought her along not for food but companionship.
Melitón (“They Gave Us the Land”)
Like the other peasants in the story, Melitón has been given the Big Plain as his share of the redistributed land after the Revolution. He travels with Esteban, the narrator, and Faustino, and is singled out for his unusual comments on the land that make his companions think he is suffering from sunstroke. He insists the land must be good for something when it is obvious to the others that the land is worthless.
Faustino (“They Gave Us the Land”)
The peasant Faustino is also crossing the Big Plain in search of a parcel of land. He is the most minor character of the four companions and says very little.
Government Official (“They Gave Us the Land”)
The government official is the distributor of land and represents the revolutionary government. He takes away the men’s guns and horses, explains to them that they can have the Big Plain up to the borders of the town, and sets them off to claim their parcels of land on the Big Plain. There is no negotiating with him, though the peasants try. When they complain, he says they can appeal in writing. The official also tells them that their attacks should be directed at the large landowners and not the government.
The narrator (“We’re Very Poor”)
The narrator of this story is the sibling of Tacha, the youngest daughter in his family. He speaks using simple language and we know very little about him, not even his age relative to his sisters. He explains both the flood and the family’s economic situation and seems to grasp the grave implications of the cards fate has dealt poor Tacha.
Tacha (“We’re Very Poor”)
Sister of the narrator and the last remaining daughter in the family. Her cow has been lost in the flooding of the river and, as a result, she no longer has a dowry. She is in puberty and her growing breasts are referenced by the narrator as signs of her impending perdition. This is because if she no longer has any capital to offer them she will be tempted to win their hearts through sex, something that her older sisters tried. As a result they became prostitutes.
La Serpentina and her calf (“We’re Very Poor”)
La Serpentina is Tacha’s cow, and it is killed in the flood. It was spotted and had a pink ear and pretty eyes. Along with her calf, La Serpentina was meant to be Tacha’s dowry, but now that it is lost, the calf is the girl’s only hope of escaping a life as a prostitute.
The father (“We’re Very Poor”)
The father is the first character in “We’re Very Poor” to fully recognize the devastation caused by the rains. Not only has his family lost its harvest of rye, but his daughter Tacha has lost her dowry. This almost certainly means she will become a prostitute, something which he had been trying to avoid since his two oldest daughters took that path in the past.
The mother (“We’re Very Poor”)
The mother in “We’re Very Poor” cannot comprehend why her daughters have each become prostitutes (with Tacha likely to follow suit). She searches her family tree for evidence of “bad women” but cannot find any explanation.
The narrator (“The Hill of the Comadres”)
This man narrates in first person the story of his relationship with the leading family on the Hill of the Comadres, the Torricos. He speaks in a matter-of-fact tone and, like nearly all of Rulfo’s characters, he is not highly educated or much of a “deep thinker.” He is simply a man who has grown accustomed over time to accepting the world the way it is.
Remigio Torrico (“The Hill of the Comadres”)
A local ruffian who, together with his brother Odilón, terrorizes the town of the Hill of the Comadres. Remigio has one black eye and has excellent vision. He and Odilón eat the other residents’ food and animals and rob and sometimes murder those who pass by the town on the road below, as is the case of the mule driver whom they rob and kill with the help of the narrator.
Odilón Torrico (“The Hill of the Comadres”)
A local ruffian who, together with his brother Remigio, terrorize the town of the Hill of the Comadres. Odilón is killed by the Alcaraz family in Zapotlán for spitting mescal in the face of an Alacaraz. His brother Remigio later erroneously accuses the narrator of killing Odilón and stealing his money.
The Alcaraces (“The Hill of the Comadres”)
The equivalent of the Torricos in the nearby town of Zapotlán. They do not like the Torricos and they control the city of Zapotlán (likely in the same way the Torricos control the Hill of the Comadres). They collectively kill Odilón by stabbing him after he spits liquor in the face of a member of their family.
The man (“The Man”)
The man’s real name is José, although that name is only used once in the story. Rulfo prefers the anonymity and general confusion that the use of the name “the man” implies. He is a fugitive fleeing a man who is pursuing him, and he spends most of the story lost as he wanders through a labyrinth-like riverbed. The man is running away because he killed the pursuer’s family with a machete as they slept in their beds. His goal was to kill the pursuer — as an act of revenge for this man’s murder of his brother — but as it turns out his intended victim was not at home that night.
The pursuer (“The Man”)
The pursuer’s last name is Urquidi, although that name is only used once for the same reason as in the case of José, the man he is pursuing: Rulfo prefers to emphasize the men’s universal qualities, rather than their particularities. The pursuer is chasing the man in order to exact revenge for the murder of his family at night while they slept in their beds. As Urquidi chases the man, he chastises himself for not being at home to defend his family.
The shepherd (“The Man”)
The shepherd is an innocent bystander who has partially witnessed the unfolding drama of the man and the pursuer from afar. He tends his boss’s sheep and sees the man wandering lost in the riverbed through the slats of a fence. Later in the story the man encounters the shepherd and drinks milk directly from one of his sheep. The two converse about the man’s family, and later on the shepherd finds the man dead in the riverbed, shot in the back of the head by the pursuer.
Old Esteban (“At Daybreak”)
Old Esteban is an elderly man whose job is to tend to Don Justo’s cows. He brings them back to his boss Don Justo’s corral in San Gabriel each morning. For no apparent reason he decides one morning that will kill one of the calves and begins to kick it until Don Justo intervenes and begins to beat the old man instead. He loses consciousness and wakes up to find that Don Justo has somehow died in the encounter.
Don Justo Brambila (“At Daybreak”)
Justo Brambila is Old Esteban’s boss, and he is described by Esteban as an angry man with a bad temper. In “At Daybreak” Don Justo beats Esteban for kicking one of his calves to death and dies while doing so. The reader does not find out whether Don Justo was killed by Esteban, whether he slipped on a rock and hit his head, or simply died of anger. Don Justo is also sexually involved with his niece, Margarita, with whom he sleeps at night. He returns her to her bed each morning and has considered marrying her except that the priest would excommunicate them for incest.
Margarita (“At Daybreak”):
Margarita lives with her mother in her uncle Justo Brambila’s house. She has an incestuous relationship with her uncle and she sleeps with him at night before returning to her own bed each morning. Her mother does not know about the relationship because she is bedridden and sleeps in an adjoining room, but the mother does suspect that Margarita is seeing someone. Margarita discovers Justo’s body when she runs to tell him that her mother has scolded her and called her a prostitute.
Justo Brambila’s Sister (“At Daybreak”)
Justo Brambila’s sister and her daughter Margarita live with Justo. She is a bedridden cripple and as a result does not know about the incestuous relationship her daughter has with her brother. She does suspect Margarita is sneaking out at night with men, however, and therefore accuses her of being a prostitute. This accusation causes Margarita to run to Justo only to find him dead in the corral.
Tanilo Santos (“Talpa”)
Tanilo is the brother of the narrator and the husband of Natalia. He has an illness that covers his body in sores that ooze a pestilent yellow pus. His wife cannot bear to be around him in this state and is therefore involved in an affair with the narrator. Knowing the trip will kill him, the narrator and Natalia decide to encourage Tanilo’s idea of making a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Talpa, who he hopes will cure him.
Natalia is Tanilo’s wife and the lover of Tanilo’s brother, the narrator. Natalia cannot stand the sight and smell of Tanilo’s illness, so she conspires with the narrator to urge Tanilo to undertake the pilgrimage to Talpa, even though she knows it will kill him.
The narrator (“Talpa”)
The narrator is the brother of Tanilo and the lover of Tanilo’s wife, Natalia. The narrator is not named by Rulfo, but like other characters in The Burning Plain he is driven by a primal instinct — in this case lust — which pushes him to seduce Natalia and plot his brother’s death. Together with Natalia he pushes Tanilo to take the voyage to Talpa to see the Virgin there, even though he knows the trip will kill the sick man. After this death, the narrator finds that his relationship with Natalia has changed.
El Pichón (“The Burning Plain”)
El Pichón is the narrator of “The Burning Plain.” He is a revolutionary and a bandit (these become interchangeable terms as the story proceeds) in Pedro Zamora’s band. Like his companions, he is an unscrupulous character who we can suspect has no reservations about stealing and killing. Although the text does not describe the narrator as involved in any murders, we know he fought the government soldiers and raided many towns. Pichón is occasionally given particular commands by Pedro, but generally plays the part of a chronicler who is relatively detached from the events he describes, even though he undoubtedly takes part.
Pedro Zamora (“The Burning Plain”):
Pedro Zamora is the leader of a band of revolutionaries who might be characterized more as bandits and murderers than inspired ideologues. Zamora is a powerful leader who keeps his men constantly “alert.” His eyes are always “open” and watching his men or counting them in silence. Though Pedro is an effective leader, he also has a sadistic side. A shadowy figure, he appears and disappears at different points in the story. At the end we learn that Pichón believes he was killed in Mexico City after following a woman there.
El Chihuila, Los Cuatro, La Perra (“The Burning Plain”)
These characters are men in Pedro Zamora’s bloodthirsty band of revolutionaries. They are relatively indistinguishable from one another and are killed off as the story proceeds. El Chihuila, whose death comes last, is perhaps the most unsettling reminder of what awaits them all: he dies with a bloodstained grin on his face, appearing to laugh at those who look at him.
The woman and her son (“The Burning Plain”)
The woman who waits for Pichón at the end of the story is one of the best women the narrator has encountered in his travels. She is strong-willed and has waited for him to get out of jail for quite a while so she could introduce him to their son, who is also called Pichón. The boy is different from his father, however, in that he is a “good person” and not a bandit or murderer, despite the mean look he displays.
Juvencio Nava (“Tell Them Not to Kill Me!”)
Juvencio is the main character of “Tell Them Not to Kill Me!” At times in the story he takes up the narration in first person. He is the father of Justino and has been tied to a post where he awaits his execution by firing squad. Juvencio is to be executed for murdering a man, Don Lupe, nearly forty years earlier. Don Lupe had refused to let Juvencio graze his livestock on his land, so Juvencio killed him. Since the murder Juvencio has spent his life hiding from strangers and living in fear.
Justino Nava (“Tell Them Not to Kill Me!”)
Justino is Juvencio’s son, and he is pressured by his father to plead with the colonel for his father’s life. Justino is worried that his association with Juvencio will make him a target for execution and hereby endanger his wife and children, but he submits to his father’s begging and talks to the colonel. Unfortunately this is to no avail and Juvencio is shot. Justino then has the unpleasant job of transporting the corpse back to Palo de Venado for the wake.
Colonel Terreros (“Tell Them Not to Kill Me!”)
The Colonel is Don Lupe’s son, and was orphaned quite young due to the murder of his father by Juvencio. He has always had difficulty forgetting that his father’s murderer was wandering around free, and as a result when he finds Juvencio he is inflexible in executing him. The Colonel is not seen by Juvencio, but only heard.
Don Lupe (Guadalupe) Terreros (“Tell Them Not to Kill Me!”)
Don Lupe is the father of the colonel and the previous friend of Juvencio. Don Lupe was the owner of the Puerta de Piedra, a property with room for grazing that Juvencio lacked. Don Lupe would not share the grazing field with Juvencio, so Juvencio began to let his animals into Don Lupe’s property at night by cutting the fence so they could graze and Don Lupe would have to repair the fence each morning. This continued until Don Lupe killed one of Juvencio’s yearlings. This sparked Justino’s rage and he killed Don Lupe by hacking him first with a machete and then sticking an ox goad in his belly.
The narrator (“Luvina”)
The narrator is a teacher who used to work in the town of Luvina. Now he lives in another town quite different from Luvina, where children actually live happily and there is a river nearby. He is in a bar talking with an interlocutor who does not speak in the story but who has been assigned to teach in the ghost town. The narrator has taken it upon himself to tell the listener what he is getting into and describes the town and its surroundings in vivid detail. He is rather unique in Rulfo’s works because although descriptions of nature are relatively common, this narrator gives particularly vivid ones.
The listener/interlocutor (“Luvina”)
The listener in “Luvina” does not say a word throughout the story, but the narrator makes frequent references to him. The reader could almost take the place of the person listening in the story. We know he is a new teacher, likely relatively young and idealistic, and that he has been assigned to teach in Luvina, where the narrator once worked. In the story the narrator has taken it upon himself to bring the young man down to earth (if not frighten him) with his description of the dead-end town that is his destination.
Feliciano Ruelas (“The Night They Left Him Alone”)
Feliciano is the nephew of Tanis and Librado. He and his uncles are Cristero Rebels during the Cristero War against the revolutionary government. He is just a boy and is the one who laid an ambush for Lieutenant Parra of the federal forces. When the story begins Feliciano and the two men are fleeing at night toward the Comanja Sierra where they will meet up with the conservative forces of the Catorce. They are exhausted, however, and Feliciano slowly begins to fall behind. Eventually he sleeps against a tree by the side of the road and wakes up in horror to realize he is alone and exposed to travelers on the road who may see him.
Tanis and Librado (“The Night They Left Him Alone”)
Tanis and Librado are Feliciano’s uncles. They appear to be the more conscientious and disciplined Cristero rebels, but in contrast with their nephew they are caught by the federal soldiers and hung from a mesquite tree. This is ironic since they insisted that traveling at night was the best way to evade capture but it is Feliciano — who finally gave in to sleep — that survives in the end.
Urbano Gómez (“Remember”)
Urbano is someone the narrator (and apparently his interlocutor) knows from his childhood. Urbano was one of only two children to survive past infancy in his family, and he was known for making money by scamming the other children in the schoolyard. Although the narrator and his listener were friends with Urbano as children, they ceased to be his friends when he started to ask them to repay the money they owed his sister. Their friendship ended definitively when Urbano was caught fooling around with his cousin and was expelled from school and left town. He later returned to town as a policeman but refused to talk to anyone until he snapped one day and killed his brother-in-law Nachito.
“Eggplant” is the nickname for Urbano’s mother. She was called this because she seemed to get pregnant every time she fooled around with a new man. She had many children but all died shortly after birth except for Urbano and his sister Natalia. She lost her fortune paying for extravagant funerals and wakes for these children. She died giving birth to her last baby.
Stuck Up (“Remember”)
This is the unfortunate nickname of Urbano’s cousin. Urbano was expelled from school when he was caught fooling around with her. This experience was traumatic for both parties as they were subjected to ridicule by the entire school.
Nachito is Urbano’s brother-in-law. He became feeble-minded shortly after getting married and played songs all day on a mandolin. He was violently killed by Urbano for no apparent reason when he tried to serenade him in the center of town. Urbano seemed to show remorse the next day when the authorities caught up with him by voluntarily assisting in his own execution by hanging.
The father (“No Dogs Bark”)
The father of Ignacio is not described in any detail. We only come to know him from the anxious questions (often rhetorical) and comments he directs at his injured son sitting on his shoulders. He bears his burden out of love for Ignacio's now-deceased mother. Toward the end of the story the father says that the mother died in childbirth — while delivering a younger sibling of Ignacio (perhaps his twin) — but that Ignacio would have killed her himself had she lived.
Ignacio (“No Dogs Bark”)
We receive no physical description of the wounded son, Ignacio. All we know of him is what he says (less and less as the story advances and Ignacio slowly dies while sitting on his father’s shoulders) and what his father says of him. We do know that he is not a boy, but rather an adult, because the narrator refers to the two characters at the beginning as two “men.” The narrator also says of Ignacio that he speaks very little, in some moments seems to sleep, and at others trembles as if he were very cold as his father carries him toward the town of Tonaya.
The dogs (“No Dogs Bark”)
Their sound of their barking is the sign that the two men have reached Tonaya. They listen for it throughout the story but only at the end — when it is too late and death has taken Ignacio — does the father hear them as he enters the town.
The Son (“Paso del Norte”)
The son is the central character of “El Paso del Norte.” Although he only narrates in third person for a few moments, his conversations with his father, workers in Ciudad Juárez and the Immigration Officer constitute the vast majority of the text. The son is a man struggling with a dilemma since he wants to provide for his family but cannot afford to do so in Mexico. Desperate to feed them something other than the weeds they have been eating he feels the only way to do this is to cross the border and work for some time in the United States.
The Father (“Paso del Norte”)
The father in “Paso del Norte” is portrayed by the son as a selfish character. He knows how to make firecrackers and gunpowder but refuses to teach his son this livelihood would give him financial security since they might have to compete for business. He also never taught his son how to recite poetry which would have also possibly earned him money. The father is not totally irresponsible, however, since he does decide to take care of the son’s family in the end.
Tránsito (“Paso del Norte”)
Tránsito is the son’s wife and the mother of his five children. The father did not like Tránsito when he met her and compared her to a prostitute he had met once on the street. She is a good woman according to the son, but at the end of the story she abandon’s her children and runs off with a mule driver. The son pursues her at the end of the story.
Estanislado (“Paso del Norte”)
Estanislado is a character the son knew from home and they decide to cross the Rio Grande together as the go to the “North.” As they cross the river their group is fired upon from the other side and Estanislado is fatally wounded. He dies after the son drags him to shore.
The Immigration Officer (“Paso del Norte”)
The immigration officer is described at first as a sergeant, but the son suspects he is from the army since he carries such a big gun. He accuses the son of murdering Estanislado when he finds him in the desert but then realizes the truth when he sees that the son has also been shot in the arm. The officer tells the son that the people who shot at him were probably Apaches and that he ought to go back home. He gives him some money for the trip and tells him not to come back.
Lucas Lucatero (“Anacleto Morones”)
Lucas Lucatero is the main character and narrator of “Anacleto Morones.” Like his mentor, Anacleto, Lucatero is a swindler who specializes in stealing women’s virginity, especially women like those who — many years after the fact — visit him in the story. Lucatero is a selfish rogue who now wants nothing to do with these women since he considers them “old” and “dried up” and he knows that all they are interested in doing is reviving the memory of Anacleto and turning him into a saint.
Anacleto Morones (“Anacleto Morones”)
Anacleto or “the Holy Child” as the women of Amula call him is Lucatero’s mentor in the art of swindling. He masquerades as a miracle worker and is a false salesman of saintly relics. He tricks the women of the town to sleep with him and preys on their desire to be loved and to approach something resembling divinity. Anacleto appears to be a more despicable character than Lucatero, but this may be because we only learn about him through his disenchanted apprentice.
Pancha Fregoso (“Anacleto Morones”):
Pancha is the first spinster of the Congregation of Amula to address Lucatero and the last to leave his home. She was carried off by a man named Homobono Ramos, according to Lucatero, although Pancha denies this and says they were just “looking for berries.” At the end of the story Pancha agrees to spend the night with Lucatero if he agrees to come with her to Amula to testify.
Nieves García (“Anacleto Morones”)
Nieves García is one of the women from the Amula congregation and she is an old lover of Lucatero. He pretends not to recognize her in the story in order to provoke her departure. He slept with her when she was younger and then never married her despite her waiting for him. When she found out he was married to Anacleto’s daughter it was too late for her to marry anyone else.
Eldemiro (“Anacleto Morones”)
Eldemiro is the owner of a drugstore in Amula. He is described as an evil man by the women since he criticized the “Holy Child” for being an impostor. He died of rabies and this seems like divine justice to the women.
Filomena (the “Dead One”) (“Anacleto Morones”)
Disgusted with Lucatero’s behavior, Filomena, known as the “Dead One” for her quiet nature, forces herself to vomit up all the food and myrtle water he has offered her. Wanting to be purged of his evil influence, Filomena does this into one of Lucatero’s flowerpots and promptly leaves.
Melquíades (“Anacleto Morones”)
Melquíades is another of the women who visit Lucatero’s home. She tells Lucatero that Anacleto never required her to sleep with him, only to allow him to hold her through the night. Lucatero tells her that this is because she is old.
“The Orphan” (“Anacleto Morones”)
“The Orphan” is the oldest of the women who visit Lucatero. She claims to have found her lost parents in the arms of Anacleto Morones, and says because of this it was the happiest night of her life.
Anastasio’s daughter Micaela (“Anacleto Morones”)
Micaela claims that Anacleto cured her husband of syphilis by burning him with a hot reed and rubbing saliva on his sores. Lucatero says that the illness was probably only measles since he was cured the same way as a child.
The Burning Plain and Other Stories Questions and Answers
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Study Guide for The Burning Plain and Other Stories
The Burning Plain and Other Stories study guide contains a biography of author Juan Rulfo, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of Rulfo's short stories, including No Oyes Ladrar los Perros.