Characters Discussed

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Luiza

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Luiza (lew-EE-sah), the blonde, beautiful wife of Jorge. During Jorge’s prolonged absence, she has an affair with her cousin Bazilio. When she discovers that her maid has stolen some of their love notes and letters, she wants to escape to Paris with him. She refuses at first to accept money from Bazilio to pay off Juliana. To keep Juliana from revealing her secret, Luiza grants Juliana her every wish, even to the point of doing her work for her. Luiza’s love for Bazilio turns to hate, and she longs for Jorge’s return. The strains of hiding her affair and dealing with Juliana’s constant demands break her health. In desperation, she writes to Bazilio to send her money so she can extricate herself from the intolerable situation. Before she receives a reply from him, however, Jorge returns. After Luiza recovers from a long illness precipitated by Juliana’s death, Jorge confronts her with Bazilio’s reply to her letter, causing her sudden relapse and death from brain fever.

Jorge

Jorge (HOHR-heh), Luiza’s devoted and rather conventional husband, a government mining engineer. He has accepted an extended assignment in the Alentejo, a mining region in southern Portugal. After his return, Juliana’s behavior infuriates him, and he wants Luiza to fire her. He is consumed with jealousy when he intercepts Bazilio’s letter to Luiza and realizes that she might have been unfaithful to him. He nurses her back to health from one fever, only to cause her final collapse by demanding an explanation for the contents of Bazilio’s letter.

Bazilio de Brito

Bazilio de Brito (bah-SEE-lee-oh deh BREE-toh), Luiza’s wealthy, handsome, and worldly cousin. He carefully orchestrates Luiza’s seduction and rents a seedy room for their rendezvous. When Luiza threatens to end their affair because he has become inconsiderate and indifferent, he cynically introduces her to new sexual sensations to change her mind. He contrives to leave the country immediately after Luiza runs to him with the news of Juliana’s knowledge of their romance. His answer to her written request for hush money is intercepted by Jorge. Upon his return to Lisbon, he hopes to resume his liaison with Luiza. The news of her death, however, does not grieve him. He only regrets that his current mistress has not accompanied him to Lisbon.

Juliana Conceiro Tavira

Juliana Conceiro Tavira (hew-lee-AH-nah kohn-SA-roh tah-VEE-rah), Luiza’s ugly, ailing, bitter, and manipulative maid. She steals incriminating notes and letters from Luiza in the hope of extorting enough money from her for a comfortable retirement. The prospect of extracting a large sum is dashed by Bazilio’s departure, so she elects to demand favors of Luiza. After Luiza has given her everything she wants, Juliana refuses to work. When Jorge demands that she be fired, she forces Luiza to fire Joanna, the cook, instead. Enraged by Sebastian forcing her to surrender Luiza’s letters, she dies of a heart attack.

Sebastian

Sebastian, Jorge’s best friend from childhood. He suspects Luiza’s romance with Bazilio. When Luiza requests that he deal with Juliana for her, he retrieves the stolen letters and never betrays Luiza’s trust in him.

Leopoldina

Leopoldina (leh-oh-pohl-DEE-nah), Luiza’s unhappily married school friend. Jorge has forbidden Luiza to see her because of her bad reputation. She fascinates Luiza with tales about her many lovers.

Ernestinho Ledesma

Ernestinho Ledesma (ehr-nehs-TEEN-oh leh-DEHS-mah), a playwright and cousin of Jorge. In the original version of his successful play about adultery, the wife is killed by the offended husband. When Ernestinho complains about being forced to change the ending so that the unfaithful wife is forgiven, Jorge insists vehemently that an unfaithful wife should be killed.

Juliao Zuzarte

Juliao Zuzarte (hew-lee-OW sew-ZAHR-teh), a dour physician friend of Jorge. He attends Luiza in her final illness.

Joanna

Joanna, Luiza’s loyal cook. She returns to serve Luiza after Juliana’s death.

Felicidade de Noronha

Felicidade de Noronha (feh-LEE-see-dahd deh nohr-OHN-ah), a buxom, heavyset lady who is a friend of Jorge and Luiza. She has never married, although her infatuation with Councilor Accacio has never diminished.

Councilor Accacio

Councilor Accacio (ah-KAH-see-oh), an old-fashioned, dignified bachelor and a friend of Jorge’s father.

The Characters

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Like most nineteenth century novelists, José Maria de Eça de Queiróz makes moral judgments of his characters, but his tendency to moralize is complemented by his caustic vision of the pretensions and stupidity of mankind. The novel is called Cousin Bazilio, but the seducer is merely a catalyst. Luiza is the main character. Despite her intellectual and emotional limitations, Eça de Queiróz remains sympathetic to the beautiful young lady. As Sebastian observes, “There aren’t any bad women, my dear Senhora, there are only bad men.” The most interesting aspect of Luiza’s character involves the violent conflict between propriety and desire. Her voluptuous response to the dangers of adultery and the rapture she experiences from openly breaking laws and conventions is described as “the soul [seeking] its own discomfiture with sensual appetites and tremblings of desire.” Despite her humiliations and punishments, Luiza never fully abandons her passion for Bazilio.

Bazilio is a callous and predictable stage villain who triumphantly twirls his mustache after sexual conquests: “Adultery appeared in his talk as an aristocratic obligation. After hearing him one would have thought virtue was the defect of mediocre spirits.” Jorge, though a decent man, suffers because of his complacency and his inability to sustain a lasting passion with Luiza. During a theoretical discussion at the beginning of the novel, Jorge exclaims that he would kill his wife if she were unfaithful, and he finally becomes the inadvertent cause of her death. Councilor Accacio is an effective comic caricature, and the scene in which he insists on accompanying Luiza, who is desperate to meet Bazilio at their Paradise, is brilliantly executed. The most interesting and most repulsive character is the sexually starved Juliana. She personifies pure hatred and forces Luiza to pay for her sin.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 79

Coleman, Alexander. Eça de Queiróz and European Realism, 1980.

Fedorchek, Robert. “Luiza’s Dream Worlds in O primo Basilio,” in Romance Notes. XV (Spring, 1974), pp. 532-535.

Pritchett, V.S. “A Portuguese Diplomat: Eça de Queiróz,” in The Myth Makers, 1979.

Rougle, W.P. “The Role of Food in Five Major Novels by Eça de Queiróz,” in Luso-Brazilian Review. XIII (Winter, 1976), pp. 157-181.

Stevens, James. “Eça and Flaubert,” in Luso-Brazilian Review. III (May, 1966), pp. 47-61.

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