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Dom Casmurro Summary

Dom Casmurro was written in Portuguese by Joaquim Maria Machado and published in 1899. The narrator is named Bento Santiago, and “Dom Casmurro” is a nickname which refers to how Bento keeps to himself.

As the narrator, Bento is an older man writing about his life. The story begins when he is fifteen years old, in the year 1857. Bento begins to fall in love with a girl named Capitu who lives near his family. His mother learns of their affections and considers forcing Bento to go to seminary to become a priest before the couple gets any further along.

Bento ends up doing what his mother tells him to do and goes to seminary despite his love for Capitu. The lovers plan to make a future together after Bento returns from seminary. And this is what happens; they do marry in the end, after years of separation where they grow apart. However, their years of marriage are not happy, and they eventually separate.


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Dom Casmurro may be interpreted as narrator and protagonist Bento Santiago’s attempt to relieve himself of the guilt he feels for having destroyed his relationship with his wife and son and for the jealousy he came to harbor for his dead best friend. Relief of the guilt may come from earning the support of a sympathetic reader. It may also come, however, from Bento’s admitting, finally, that he was wrong. Though such an admission never occurs within the novel itself, it is possible to conclude that even Bento suspects the truth behind his sad story.

Bento opens his narrative by explaining that he was given his nickname, Dom Casmurro, or “Mr. Stubborn,” by a young man in his neighborhood. Boredom led Bento to write a book, and a rejection of other topics led him to write about his own life.

He begins his tale by returning to the day when his mother’s promise to God that her son would become a priest resurfaced, making an eventual separation from his childhood companion Capitú seem inevitable. This is more than Bento and Capitú can bear; at fifteen and fourteen years old respectively, they already realize that they love each other beyond friendship. A first kiss is exchanged, and several potential plans about how to keep Bento out of the seminary are hatched, but with the seminary looming, prospects are bleak.

Though Bento begins his studies at the seminary, he is released from his obligation when it is proposed that his mother’s promise can be fulfilled by supporting another young man with priestly ambitions. Bento now studies law and exchanges letters with Capitú through his friend Escobar, who, like Bento, had enrolled in the seminary only to leave for more secular interests. Bento receives his law degree, and he and Capitú are married.

Escobar marries Capitú’s friend Sancha, and the two couples are nearly inseparable. Bento adores Capitú, and the only thing missing from their marriage is a child, a fact made more painful when Escobar and Sancha quickly have a daughter.

Bento learns that Capitú has saved some money without his knowledge and with Escobar’s help. Bento, always insecure and jealous, particularly in the face of the lack of these two qualities in Capitú, is bothered that his wife has kept a secret from him, but this passes. Soon he and Capitú have a son, whom they name Ezekiel, after their dear friend Escobar.

Little Ezekiel is an active child with a penchant for imitating adults, including Escobar, a habit that Capitú is far more concerned with breaking than is Bento. The child is curious, like his mother, and popular, and even this brings out a degree of jealousy in his father. In fact, Bento is jealous of everyone, and he begins to have doubts about Capitú.

Bento’s jealousy does not solidify, however, nor even focus on its true target until Escobar’s drowning death in the ocean. Capitú’s eyes as she views Escobar’s body at the funeral speak volumes for Bento, who on the spot concludes that Capitú and Escobar had been lovers. He soon concludes, as well, that Ezekiel, the image of Bento’s...

(The entire section is 2,025 words.)