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Muoz 1

Katherine Muoz
Professor Carola Oyarzn
LET1346 - Drama
October 7, 2015
Characterization in Sunset Limited
Sunset Limited is a play written by American author Cormac McCarthy, in 2006.
The plot consists on a dialogue between white, a professor who wanted to commit suicide
in Sunset Limited (a metro station), and black, a profusely religious ex-con who saves
whites life. These two characters represent polarities that are fundamental for the
development of the action, such as degree of intellectual knowledge, social status, racial
status, religious views and so on. White, who represents the suicidal professor, embodies
rationality and logic, while Black, the ex-convict, possess a more spontaneous
personality, along with a strong sense of moral provided by religion, which represents a
struggle between his criminal past and his new redeemed self. As a purpose of this report,
the aim will be focused on how these differences are fundamental for the characterization
of the role, and the way in which economic and social differences are made explicit in
every dimension of the characters.
In few words, we can identify Sunset Limited as a cultural clash between two
representatives of opposites inside a social structure that will lead to philosophical debates
regarding the value of life and death. Undoubtedly, these matter of debate is transversal to
every culture, in any time and space, transforming Sunset Limited in a play that can be

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adapted into many ways to fit different context but always keeping the main core of the
plot: life.
In this regard, the play was adapted to our Chilean society by Rafael Gumucio, a
renowned Chilean author, who made subtle changes from the original play to create a more
suitable atmosphere for the plot considering the Chilean context. These differences rely on
the fact that, while in the original play the main difference was about their skin color, in the
Chilean adaptation, this difference is stated through economical status, determining the
setting, the characters personality and their expectations of life, with significant differences
in paraverbal and non verbal language. As example, the professor, interpreted by Marcelo
Alonso, characterizes his character based on stereotypical features of the upper class, such
as the tone of his voice (low pitch with slow rhythm), the vocabulary and content of his
dialogues (making several references to books and theories) and the way hes dressed (a
coat, gloves). In addition, he incorporates several personality and mental traits that evoke
certain over rationalization of his own existence, surely provided by a rich cultural and
intellectual environment. His discourse is full of pauses, sometimes to represent a
meditative aspect regarding his own thoughts, but at the same time, it shows certainty about
his fatalistic and grim perspective towards life. On the other hand, the ex-convict,
interpreted by Roberto Faras, is no longer differentiated by the color of his skin, but based
by his disadvantaged economic situation, which provides him a certain frame of
characterization for his role. His character appears to be very friendly, proper (always
referring as usted when talking to the professor), gentle (he shares his food and house),
incredibly religious and patient with the professors attitude, trying to make him accept the
existence of God. As the play goes by, this ex-convict reveals his struggle with his past

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demons, his life in prison and his repressed impulses of anger, which tries to contain by
professing the word of God.
It is also important to notice a subjacent conflict between the two characters, also
provided by the opposite environments in which they live. Farias character is very open to
listen to the professor, because he sees in him a person with a lot of education, knowledge
and sensitivity, traits that he lacks and at the same time, admires. This can be seen, for
instance, when the professor talks about classical music, the different shades of a same
piece of music, which amazes the ex-convict. However, the now religious man still cannot
comprehend why a person with such education and would well upbringing would want to
commit suicide, and he confronts the professor several times stating this concern. Again,
the two ends of a same rope (society) are opposing again, based on a deep issue in our
society, which is the degree in which money and culture can affect and determine a persons
way of life. The ex-con reveals his life as a real tragedy, with a past as a murderer, and a
present full of loneliness. Nonetheless, while Faras character sees his life as a way of
proving, in which he has chosen to survive under a frame of kindness and religion, Alonsos
character choses death as the outcome of his life, explaining that suicide is the only logical
resolution given the fact that God doesnt exist or just doesnt care about us.
Regarding his acting, taking into consideration all the differences that the characters
show along the development of the play, from a personal perspective, their roles result very
reliable for the spectators, being coherent to their particular contexts. This is why, as
audience, we see their relationship changing from time to time, going through kindness,
tolerance, friendship, and also through anger, misunderstanding, confusion and despair.
This fundamental dynamic of relationship provides the fantastic element inside the plot,

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because the way in which these two creates dialogues is nor very likely to happen in real
life. Even more, a future in which the professor and the religious ex-convict can continue
being friends is nonexistent. The play does not provides a certain continuity in time, there is
no future for the characters to meet again, and their lives seem to end as the play ends too.
This can be a result of taking our social reality as a referential point, in which
disagreements are constantly present, and the only thing that can be done to avoid
conflictive situations is to accept different realities, and different views of life. The most
safe action is to respect others choices, even if they make no sense to us. Farias and
Alonsos characters see the same life from a different point of view, thats why their
dialogue is a constant debate between choosing to live or to die in an indulgent and
neglected society, and while Farias represents the part that is constantly left aside, the
professor is the one who can enjoy being part of it (society), with access to intellectualism
and wisdom, but that choses not to.
Maybe the only thing that is not truly reliable, considering their social context and
personality traits, is the fact that the characters seem to contain themselves for a long time
before losing their minds (it took a while for the ex-convict to get really angry and being
about to harm the professor). It seems that our society is not that tolerant or patient with the
ones that are different, and that our society tends to behave in more asymmetrical relations
that help to maintain boundaries between people. In Sunset Limited, there are times in
which this relation becomes symmetrical, and they both become interested for the other,
listening each other. It would have been better if the characters would have shown certain
degree of intolerance between them, but maybe, this is the fictional element that must
reminds us that this is just a play.