Andreas is the guerrilla leader. A tall, handsome man, he is Maria’s lover. When Alfie meets him, he realizes that Andreas is the man on the poster that Eduardo has placed on the wall of his room. It shows a man in beret, black boots, and bandolier who looks as if he might have “played Che Guevara in some B-budget Argentine melodrama.”
Eduardo is the houseboy at Ransome’s ranch. He seems rather nervous and overreacts when he has to kill two stray ocean crabs in the kitchen. It appears that he hates his employers and other gringos, or Americans. Maria and Alfie have to take him to his room to calm him down. Eduardo’s sympathies are with Andreas and the other guerrillas, and he is present when they confront and kill Ransome.
Alfie Judah, the narrator of the story, is a Jew who is originally from Baghdad, Iraq, but is now a naturalized U.S. citizen. He appears to be a widely traveled man, having lived in Bombay, India, but he is also someone who does not really fit in wherever he goes. His American home is in Flushing, in the borough of Queens, New York, and he has an American wife. Alfie is a wheeler-dealer and a hustler who is not too fussy about how he makes his money. He gets people what they need, whether it is guns, drugs, or cars, and he knows how to survive in a rough world. He was forced to flee the United States, however, because the authorities discovered an illicit fund he was maintaining for New Jersey judges. “My dealings can’t stand too much investigation,” he says. So he ends up in Central America and attaches himself for the time being to Ransome, although he expects to be able to return to the United States eventually. Alfie is dark-skinned, which means that he is spared the hatred the local people have for Americans. No one knows how to place him; to some he is an Arab, to others an Indian. Alfie’s weakness, he confesses, is women. He lusts after Maria and somehow manages to win her favors, if only for one night, and he suffers no consequences for this act of adultery. He also survives when the guerrillas come to kill Ransome. No one cares much about Alfie, so the guerrillas do not bother to kill him. As a result, he survives and seems to relish the prospect of walking in to San Vincente, the capital city, talking to people, and finding some other way of keeping himself afloat.
Clovis T. Ransome
Clovis T. Ransome is an expatriate American who, according to Alfie, has “spent his adult life in tropical paradises playing God.” Ransome fled Waco, Texas, with fifteen million dollars in petty cash that he had obtained fraudulently. He just managed to escape the investigators from the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Ransome is a player in the ruthless political game that operates in the unnamed country. It appears that he runs a protection racket to shield President Gutiérrez from his many enemies. This may have been how he acquired the beautiful Maria as his wife, since Maria was formerly the president’s mistress. Maria hates her husband and claims that he beats her. Ransome is a violent, amoral man who arranges for the guerrillas to kill his friend Bud Wilkins, because Bud had refused to allow Ransome to become part of his gun-running operation. But Ransome also falls foul of the guerrillas, for reasons unstated, and when they confront him in his room, Maria shoots and kills him with Andreas’s pistol.
Maria Ransome is a beautiful young, dark-skinned woman, mostly Indian, who is married to Clovis T. Ransome. It is a loveless marriage, however. When she was a girl, Maria planned to marry Andreas, but Gutiérrez, now president but then minister of education, came to her school when she was fourteen and took her for himself. Later, Maria was, so the talk goes, “partially bought and partially seduced” by Ransome. There is a rumor that Maria comes from an aristocratic family and is a former beauty queen. She is the object of all men’s lust, including that of Alfie and Bud Wilkins. She allows Alfie to spend the night with her when they return from the guerrilla camp and her husband is in a drunken sleep. However, her loyalty is to Andreas. She helps the guerrillas acquire the armaments that are loaded in Bud Wilkins’s pickup, and when the guerrillas confront Ransome, Maria coolly shoots her husband.
Bud Wilkins is a Texan and possibly a former CIA agent who has built up a business in the Central American country. He owns a fleet of trucks, planes, and buses, which form the legitimate side of his business. But since he has the means of transportation, he also makes a fortune selling arms. He and Ransome appear to be friends, but Ransome arranges for Bud to be killed by the guerrillas because Bud refused to give him a cut of his profits in arms trading.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 24, Bharati Mukherjee, Published by Gale Group, 2006