Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands Summary

Jorge Amado


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

As the novel begins, it is the first Sunday of Carnival in Bahia, and Waldomiro Guimarães, known by everyone as Vadinho, husband of Dona Flor, has just died while dancing the samba, dressed as a woman, with a large cassava tuber tied under his skirt. With this beginning, Amado introduces the reader to a rollicking, bawdy world inhabited, it seems at times, by the entire population of Brazil.

The novel is divided into five parts, each part chronicling a segment of Dona Flor’s life, the first dealing with Vadinho’s death, wake, and burial, and the stirring of Dona Flor’s fears of life without her husband. The wake is a great success, with people streaming in and out to pay their respects; everyone, it seems—from politicians to members of the exalted professions and the inhabitants of gambling parlors and houses of ill repute—has a story to tell of Vadinho and his deeds. Yet if Vadinho’s wake is a success, it pales in comparison to his burial procession. In the opinion of one observer, it seems as if half the population of Bahia is there, more than any of the Carnival parades draws—proof, if any is needed, that Vadinho, gambler, rascal, and unfaithful husband that he was, knew how to make friends.

For Dona Flor this is small solace. With Vadinho’s burial, the reality of his absence becomes more pronounced, and Dona Flor struggles through a period of deep mourning. Through flashbacks (and certain pertinent digressions by the author), her life as a young girl, her whirlwind courtship, and her subsequent marriage to Vadinho is recounted. The memories of her life with Vadinho haunt her at every turn. To be sure, not all of her memories are happy ones. Vadinho, being Vadinho, had carried her through life, its highs and lows, sorrows and disappointments—all of its aspects. Now, with Vadinho gone, it seems as if she lies buried with him, and only the shell of Dona Flor remains, going through the motions of living. Not until she has pushed these memories aside, plunged them deep into the bottom of her consciousness, is she able to resume her life. In a symbolic gesture at Vadinho’s grave, she lays a bouquet of flowers and at the same time buries desire,...

(The entire section is 894 words.)

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Drunk and in drag, young Waldomiro Guimarães (popularly known as Vadinho) collapses in a public square in Salvador, Brazil, on the Sunday of Carnival. He dies from a life of drinking, gambling, and debauchery. Notified by neighbors, his wife, Florípedes Paiva (Dona Flor), hastens to the scene. Although Vadinho was a conniving scoundrel, during their seven years of marriage, the attractive rake satisfied Flor’s needs. His wake is held at home, which serves also as Flor’s cooking school, the Academy of Taste and Art, the main source of household income.

Vadinho had frequently absconded with savings from the school’s income to finance his nocturnal forays. His companions in chronic carousing now gather at his wake, fondly remembering a carefree vagabond and an easy companion. Only a few members of his family appear, however, and briefly. Later, an elegy circulates in the bars Vadinho had frequented, magnanimously remembering that he was known as Vadinho to “whores” as well as to “friends.”

Flor’s mother, Dona Rozalda, arrives from her home in the interior of the country. Contriving, manipulative, and acid-tongued, she has been a chronic annoyance for her children. All have tried to escape her, and she now burdens her mourning, youngest daughter. Her dead son-in-law had been her relentless nemesis. One day, while meeting at a local festivity, accompanied by a scoundrel colleague named Mirandão, Vadinho had fooled Rozalda into believing he had prominent social status and ample financial prospects. Rozalda had always connived but failed to achieve social advancement and security through her children.

Vadinho had eyed Rozalda’s daughter, Flor, and had tried to seduce the copper-skinned beauty. Finally discovering his pretentions and real intentions, Rozalda then attempted to isolate her daughter from him. The new couple was able to escape, eloping to Salvador, where they were...

(The entire section is 788 words.)

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The novel opens during Carnival in Salvador, Bahia. Dona Flor’s first husband, Vadinho, has just died while dancing the samba in the streets, dressed as a woman. Dona Flor holds a wake and the popular Vadinho’s numerous friends, including everyone from political heavyweights to prostitutes, come to pay their respects and reminisce about their carousing, sexually promiscuous, and gambling friend. Vadinho’s funeral is even better attended than his wake. Afterward, however, the young, respectable Dona Flor is alone, her life empty. She deeply misses Vadinho, who, though he was unfaithful to her, came and went at all hours, and gambled away their money, was a passionate and spontaneous lover. Flashbacks tell of the couple’s life together.

Dona Flor decides to move on with her life. She meets and marries, following a very proper courtship, Dr. Teodoro Madureira, a local pharmacist. He is everything Vadinho was not: faithful, respectable, formal. He is also not the lover that Vadinho was. This becomes apparent on the couple’s honeymoon. Still, Dona Flor is happy because her life is stable, her place in society a respectable one. Dona Flor’s stable, if rather boring, existence changes radically, however, when, on the night of her first wedding anniversary with Teodoro, she finds a naked Vadinho lying on the couple’s bed, returned from the dead and visible only to Dona Flor. His only interest is in making love to Dona Flor. Dona Flor fights off...

(The entire section is 420 words.)

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Chamberlain, Bobby J. Jorge Amado. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Useful, informative, and readable, this critical analysis of Amado’s work covers all periods of the novelist’s output while focusing on a few of the author’s most important works. A biographical chapter is included, as well as an extensive bibliography.

Edinger, Catarina. “’Dona Flor” in Two Cultures.” Literature-Film Quarterly 19 (October, 1991): 235-241. An interesting comparison of the film and literary versions of Amado’s novel. Criticizing Bruno Baretto’s film remake of Amado’s novel, Edinger contends that the American version lacks humor and emphasizes rationality over ambivalence. She also discusses the difficulty of translating the book’s tone about sexuality and passion into American sensibilities, as well as the differences in characterization.

Hinchberger, Bill. “Jorge Amado Writes from Heart, Home.” Variety 366 (March 31, 1997): 56. Hinchberger explores the inspirations that shape Amado’s work, the filming of Amado’s novels, and Amado’s reaction to the critical acclaim he has received. Offers interesting insight into the influences that shaped Amado’s work.

Horton, Andrew. “Bakhtin, Carnival Triumph, and Cinema: Bruno Barreto’s Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands and Dusan Makavejev’s Innocence Unprotected Reconsidered.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 12 (May, 1990): 49-62. Horton argues that the film versions of Amado’s and Makavejev’s novels fit Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of parody. Barreto uses carnival in the plot of his film, and Makavejev’s movie uses a carnivalesque technique for deconstruction of history.

Robitaille, L. B. “These Men of Letters Speak for the Powerless.” World Press Review 38 (December, 1991): 26-27. An intriguing profile of Amado, covering his political activity, his life in Paris, and his feelings for his native Brazil. Presents background that sheds considerable light on his writings.