Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Though the style is comedic, the novel deals with serious and thought-provoking themes. It is a story of two worlds; of a clash between good and evil, where good and evil are not so sharply defined that a person can easily distinguish them; of love in all of its forms; of the meaning of happiness and respectability; of a battle between spirit and matter. Above all, however, it is a celebration of life.

By embodying the struggle between good and evil, between spirit and matter, in the character of Dona Flor, Amado is better able to point out and attack the hypocrisy of a society that makes such a struggle necessary. Dona Flor finds it necessary to bury desire, love, the things of the bed and of the heart when Vadinho dies, in order not to be tempted by that part of her that Vadinho so generously satisfied. She does so because if tempted, she might succumb, and if she succumbs, outside the institution of marriage, she loses (in the eyes of her neighbors, that is) the other side of herself—the decent, honorable, respectable side. In the society that she inhabits, it is the outward appearance of these qualities that counts more than the actual possession of them.

For Vadinho and Dr. Teodoro, no such problem exists. For Vadinho, a child of the street, illegitimate, there are no restraints whatsoever. He knows at first hand the hypocrisy that exists in the world, and he will have no part of it. Generous to a fault with his love (physical) and prodigious in his excesses, he suffers no disgrace, not only because he is a man but also because, unlike Dona Flor, he has nothing to...

(The entire section is 654 words.)