(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Jorge and Luiza have a happy but unexciting marriage. Luiza, childless and bored, amuses herself with music, romantic novels, and visits to her dressmaker. Immediately after Jorge leaves on a mining expedition to the south of Portugal, Bazilio returns to Lisbon after a seven-year absence in Brazil and France. Luiza has fond memories of her tall, bronzed, and mustached cousin, with whom she had had a youthful romance. Bazilio’s ruthless character, scorn for social conventions, and seduction and abandonment of Luiza provide a striking contrast to her husband’s circle of bourgeois friends. Only Luiza’s intimate friend Leopoldina, whom Jorge despises because of her immoral life, is sympathetic to Luiza’s love affair.

Bazilio’s seduction slowly progresses from provocative familiarities, tender kisses, and ardent embraces during rides in closed carriages, to its consummation in Luiza’s drawing room. Bazilio then finds a squalid room, which the lovers ironically call their “Paradise,” where they can secretly meet. He completely dominates her, teaching her new sexual sensations, to which she responds deliriously. Yet Luiza’s disillusionment is foreshadowed by her comparison with a yachtsman on a romantic voyage who anchors on the mud banks of the Tagus River and must breathe the surrounding marshy stench. Bazilio soon loses interest in his prey: He abandons his pretense of affection for Luiza, treating her in a brutal manner; humiliates her by openly expressing his boredom; and refuses to run away with her as promised.

This degrading love affair, which echoes Leopoldina’s coarse liaisons with numerous lovers, is contrasted not only with Luiza’s affectionate marriage to Jorge but also with Felicidade’s absurd attempt to arouse the amorous inter-est of Councilor Accacio—she even tries the...

(The entire section is 748 words.)