Analysis

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 275

Dom Casmurro is a novel written by Brazilian author Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. The book was published in 1899. The narrator of the novel is Bento Santiago, a lawyer, who gained the nickname "Dom Casmurro" ("Mr. Stubborn" in Brazilian Portuguese) during his youth.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Since the narrative is told from the viewpoint of Bento, the reader is given a biased one-dimensional perspective of the events that occur in the novel. In fact, one can interpret the narration of Bento as the diary of a man with a complex psyche. The lawyer narrates his life as if trying to convince a jury, which, in this case, is the reader. Bento exhibits traits of someone who is extremely insecure, paranoid, and cynical. Bento can be perceived as a sociopath or as a psychopath. In the novel, Bento contemplates and almost attempts both suicide and homicide of his loved ones.

Bento's suspicion regarding his wife's faithfulness is framed in a way that makes Bento look like the victim of a conspiracy. The novel is filled with tragedies: his friend, whom he accuses of having an affair with his wife, dies; his wife later dies in Europe after she begs Bento to join her and their son; later on, Bento's son dies during an archaeological expedition in the Middle East.

Bento shows contempt for everyone around him. His paranoia appears to stem from delusional imaginings. His wife has reiterated multiple times that she did not cheat on him and that their son is indeed his, not the offspring of his friend.

Bento represents the weak masculinity in society at the time—patriarchal and yet full of insecurities, especially regarding cuckoldry.

Commentary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 3, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 394

Dom Casmurro provides a wonderfully complex and profoundly human psychological portrait of a character presenting the tragic events of his domestic life and wrestling, albeit on a subtextual level, with his potential role in them. On the surface, Bento’s narrative seems designed to tell his side of his story in such a way that his reader will agree with his conclusion that he was indeed a victim of his wife and best friend. Bento puts his skills as a lawyer to extensive use, as he manipulates both language and fact to his side’s advantage so that he will convince the “jury” and thus acquit himself of any wrongdoing. The problem for Bento is that he frequently seems like a lawyer defending a client of whose innocence he is not completely convinced. This accounts for his frequent self-incriminating comments regarding his own character, his weak evidence regarding Capitú’s guilt, and his rather diluted emotions at the end of the novel. While he does indeed appear to defend himself, it often seems that his heart simply is not fully in it—and perhaps with good reason, for possibly he knows, or at least suspects, the truth.

Like so many truly memorable pieces of literature, Dom Casmurro, besides providing a telling interior portrait of a tortured soul, is also an open-ended, interpretation-rich collection of ambiguity. Unlike so much literature of the period, in which the conclusions the reader should reach are clearly spelled out, Machado’s novel deliberately leaves its greatest question—that concerning Capitú’s guilt—unanswered, and essentially unanswerable. Even the narrator/protagonist is confused as to whether he was right or wrong in his accusations, and his circumstantial evidence and his acutely jealous nature, as well as the fact that the reader has access to but one character’s perspective, leave the reader only to speculate on who the real victims are in this tragic and complex tale.

Machado’s novel is not a criticism of Brazilian culture of the period or a critique of male-female relations but is instead a story about one individual’s interpretation of events and his ability to believe that his interpretation coincides with truth, a belief that would free him of the guilt that comes from being wrong. He tries to win the sympathy of his reader, but he must first perhaps win his own.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Previous

Characters

Next

Critical Essays