Some of the characters' names are significant, particularly the women's names, which often indicate the personalities of the characters. The names Nívea, Clara, Blanca, and Alba are more or less synonyms, and this is mentioned as a family tradition. (Nívea means snow-white, and can be translated as "white" as can all the others, though they have specific meanings.) Férula's name means "rod" in Latin; when used in Spanish it refers to an object used to immobilize a limb, such as a splint or cast.
Clara del Valle Trueba
Clara (one of its translations is the equivalent of English "clear", although it is also a common female name) is the key female figure in the novel. She is a clairvoyant and telekinetic who is rarely attentive to domestic tasks, but she holds her family together with her love for them and her uncanny predictions. She is the youngest daughter of Severo and Nívea del Valle, wife of Esteban Trueba, and mother of Blanca, Jaime, and Nicolás. As a child, she and her uncle Marcos used her powers to run a fortune-telling centre and realize many other paranormal activities. Her uncle eventually leaves in a primitive airplane he built himself, disappearing for many months, and later dies as the result of a 'mysterious African plague' contracted during his travels. Clara practices divining and moving inanimate objects, most notably a three-legged table, and she is surrounded by friends such as the psychic Mora sisters and The Poet. Severo and Nívea del Valle are main characters in another Allende novel. As Clara grew up, she developed her abilities and was even able to communicate with ghosts and spirits. Clara represented love and cherishment.
Esteban Trueba is the central male character of the novel, and along with his granddaughter Alba, is one of the story's main narrators. In his youth, he seeks the mermaid-like and green-haired Rosa the Beautiful, daughter of Severo and Nívea del Valle, and so he toils in the mines to earn a suitable fortune so that he can support her. However, while he is working in the mines she dies by accidental poisoning: a cruel stroke of fate that changes Esteban's life and hardens his heart. Although he eventually marries Clara (Rosa's sister and youngest daughter of the del Valles) and raises a large family, Esteban's stubborn and violent ways alienate all those around him. Esteban has a tense relationship with his daughter Blanca but shows genuine love and devotion to his granddaughter Alba. Despite his often violent behavior, he is also devoted to his wife Clara, entering into a state of permanent mourning following her death. As a self-made man who earned all of his wealth from years of work spent improving Tres Marías, Esteban scorns communists and believes them to be lazy and stupid. Later in life he turns to politics where he spends his money and effort trying to prevent the rising Socialist movement within the country; an ideology he condemns. However, after the military coup he loses much of his power and suddenly has to face the fact that he has become an old and weak man. Yet it is not the loss of power, so much as the injury done to his country, that agonizes the highly patriotic Esteban. His realization that he desires the love of his family and peace in his country leads to a pivotal change in his character. In his last days, he slowly loses the rage that has been driving him all his life. He begins to make amends with what's left of his family by helping Blanca and Pedro Tercero escape the country so they can live happily and later when Alba is kidnapped by the military he asks his longtime friend Tránsito Soto (who had influence in the military) to help him, so he is ecstatic when Alba is rescued. Esteban dies happily in Alba's arms, knowing that he has achieved Clara's posthumous forgiveness.
Blanca is Clara and Esteban's first-born daughter. She spends her childhood between the Truebas' house in the capital and Tres Marías, where she forms an intense connection with a boy named Pedro Tercero García, the son of Esteban's foreman. Their friendship endures, though they only see each other in the summer, and upon adolescence they become lovers. Their love persists even after Pedro is run out of the hacienda by Esteban, because he is putting communist ideas in the other workers' heads. After she becomes pregnant with Pedro Tercero's child, her father forces her to marry Count Jean de Satigny, whom she does not love. After Blanca leaves the Count and returns to the Trueba home, she sees Pedro sporadically, resisting his attempts to persuade her to marry, but their relationship continues. Blanca's reconciliation with her father eventually allows her to flee to Canada with Pedro, where they finally are able to achieve happiness together. Blanca is also able to earn large amounts of money for the first time by selling her clay figurines, which are seen as folk art by Canadians.
Pedro Tercero García
Pedro is the son of the tenant/foreman of Tres Marías, Pedro Segundo García. At a young age, he falls in love with Blanca and is the father of her only child, Alba. In his youth, he spreads socialist ideals to the workers on the hacienda, and later he becomes a revolutionary and a songwriter (his character may be modeled after revolutionary songwriter Victor Jara). After the coup d'état in his country, he and Blanca exile themselves in Canada with Esteban's help. It is mentioned that he resumes his political crusade during his exile in Canada where his music is embraced in translation even if "chickens and foxes are underdeveloped creatures" in comparison with the "eagles and wolves" of the North.
Alba Trueba de Satigny
Alba (Spanish for "Dawn," while in Latin its meaning is "white") is the daughter of Blanca and Pedro Tercero García, although for many years of her life she was led to believe that Count de Satigny was her father. From before her birth, her grandmother Clara decreed that she was blessed by the stars. Because of this, Clara said she didn't need to go to school and was raised at home until she was seven. The novel ends with Esteban's death, and Alba sits alone in the vast Trueba mansion beside his body. The last paragraph reveals that she is pregnant, although she does not know (or care) whether the child is Miguel's or the product of the rapes that she endured at the hands of security police, during her imprisonment.