The narrator lived in the town as a boy, and his mother, sisters, and brother still reside there. He returns to the town decades after Santiago's murder to find out exactly what happened. He is now working as a journalist, and he uses his skills as an interviewer and investigator to try to tease out the facts about what happened at that fateful time and why.
Angela is a young, pretty girl of marriageable age whose family keeps a close eye on her to protect her honor. However, inside she's a free spirit who chafes at her family's overprotection. After she lies about Santiago and the tragedy plays itself out, she lives on her own, guided only by her free will and her love for Bayardo. Angela never divulges with whom she had sex with before her marriage.
Pablo Vicario is the twin brother of Pedro and older brother to Angela. He is a hog-butcher and a hot-headed macho Latino male who is hell-bent on finding Santiago and avenging the honor of his sister, Angela, who supposedly was violated by Santiago before her marriage. It is Pablo who forces his twin, Pedro, to pursue the murder of Santiago even after Pedro feels events have satisfied his lust for revenge.
Pedro Vicario is Pablo's twin brother and works with him as a hog butcher. Pedro eventually becomes less intent than his brother on finding and murdering Santiago. However, he lets Pablo force him to help with the killing. He is far more affected by the murder and afterward goes off to join the military, where he disappears and is never heard from again.
Plácida is an upper-class woman who lives with her son and servants in a large house on the town plaza. Despite the intention of several townspeople to warn her of the threat to her son, she never learns of the murder plot before it's carried out. It is by chance that Plácida aids in the murder when she bolts the front door as Santiago rushes toward it to escape the Vicario brothers.
Santiago is an open-hearted, good-natured, and innately innocent young man. Angela Vicario names him—falsely—as the man who violated her prior to her marriage. The macho code of honor makes him the target of the vengeful Vicario brothers, who seek him out to murder him. For inexplicable reasons Santiago does not learn of the murderous twins' plan until it is too late, and they hack him to pieces at his front door.
Bayardo San Román
Bayardo comes from a rich and high-status military family. He's supremely self-confident and lavish in planning his wedding celebration and in buying Angela the house of her dreams. His confidence is crushed by the scandal surrounding Angela and the termination of their marriage. He nearly dies from his alcoholism. Decades later he is still bitter and closemouthed about the terrible events that occurred during and after his wedding to Angela.