82 pages 2 hours read

Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1996

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Character Analysis

Father Emilio Sandoz

The protagonist of the novel, Emilio is from Puerto Rico and comes from a family of heroin dealers. After being rescued from the violence and brutality of that lifestyle at a young age by a Jesuit priest, Emilio eventually becomes a linguist and Jesuit priest himself. After being sent on many brief missions throughout the world, Emilio is able to learn the basics of a new language, while in the field, in as little as six months. This, among other factors, is why Emilio was chosen for the mission to Rakhat.


Emilio is described as handsome, charismatic, and funny, with bronzed skin and black hair that hangs in his eyes. It’s clear that the women in the novel are attracted to him as much for his personality as for his good looks. While Emilio’s faith in God ebbs and flows throughout the novel, he remains celibate as a form of dedication to God, even after falling in love with his colleague on Rakhat.


Emilio remains consistently hard to read. Even by the end of the novel, after everything has been revealed, Emilio’s feelings about God and his faith are still unclear. He often quotes movie lines as a way to deflect from his emotions, and often plays the comedian in serious situations.