Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 542
In the figure of Vadinho, Amado has fashioned a remarkable character, a rogue of epic proportions, a man roaring through life, gobbling it up before it gobbles him up, which is exactly what happens. As the autopsy report indicates, Vadinho could have expired at any moment; his heart, that great...
(The entire section contains 1164 words.)
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- Critical Essays
In the figure of Vadinho, Amado has fashioned a remarkable character, a rogue of epic proportions, a man roaring through life, gobbling it up before it gobbles him up, which is exactly what happens. As the autopsy report indicates, Vadinho could have expired at any moment; his heart, that great heart that propelled him through the streets of Bahia, was useless; his liver, that liver that had filtered tremendous amounts of rum and other manner of spirits, had ceased to function, and his kidneys had worn out.
To his friends of the gaming tables, the whorehouses, and other such pillars of Bahian nightlife, Vadinho is a generous man, a stand-up fellow. To Dona Flor’s friends and neighbors, the women of the neighborhood, Vadinho is a wastrel, a scoundrel, and, what to them is worse, a bad, unfaithful husband. The leader of this chorus of boos, Dona Rozilda, Dona Flor’s mother, when she hears of Vadinho’s death, boards the first ship to Bahia; even before the ship has safely docked, she is heard railing against Vadinho and praising the saints and anyone else concerned for ending his life. Dona Rozilda is a veritable virago, and Amado, in sure, deft strokes, paints her as one. In recounting the death of Dona Rozilda’s husband, Amado intimates that he died of a low grade of pneumonia, a slight cold, so desirous was he of departing for Heaven, or anywhere away from his wife, that he was not willing to wait for something serious. There are two other references to her that require no elaboration: In one, Amado writes that Dona Rozilda was “born to be a stepmother, devotedly doing all she could to fulfill her vocation.” In the second, her son-in-law refers to her as an Ash Wednesday—the end of Carnival, the end of happiness.
It is with Dona Flor that Amado truly shines in delineation of character. Portrayed as pretty, more than pleasant to look at, with bronzed skin, black, almost bluish hair, and eyes and lips that belie her calm and easy nature, she is capable of giving free rein to her emotions and desires when truly aroused. With Vadinho, she scales the heights of sensual pleasure and endures the sorrows and disappointments of life. With Dr. Teodoro, she gains the respectability she yearns for and endures the lack of excitement that Vadinho provided. Intelligent, aware of her inner and outer selves, she struggles to reconcile the two in a society that hypocritically demands that she choose one or the other, with damning results on the one hand, torment and unhappiness on the other. What Dona Flor wants and needs is a balance that would consist of a fusion of Vadinho’s and Dr. Teodoro’s characters. That she gets both is a cause for rejoicing.
Dr. Teodoro’s character is not as appealing as Dona Flor’s or Vadinho’s; where Vadinho is fair, gay, and dashing, Teodoro is dark, brooding, and reserved. Where Vadinho is generous and abandoned in his lovemaking, Teodoro is decorous and makes love only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a possible encore on Saturdays, if requested. Kind, industrious, generous, and eminently respectable, he lacks the spark, the spontaneity so abundantly present in Vadinho.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 622
Dona Flor dos Guimarães
Dona Flor dos Guimarães (gee-mah-RAYNSH), a cook of genius. Flor’s Cooking School of Savor and Art attracts pupils from all over the state of Bahia, Brazil, and ensures her a measure of dignity and independence. Thirtyish, easygoing, plump, coppery-skinned, and graceful, Flor is very feminine and at the peak of her charms when her husband of seven years, Vadinho, dies, leaving her chilled and lonely in her grief, with no outlet for her sensuality and joie de vivre. She also is beset by marriage-making friends, a gigolo on the make, and her overbearing mother. Her instinct for calm, order, and propriety, however, is satisfied by her second husband. At the end of the novel, her life is complete when Vadinho is called back from death by the power of her desire to fulfill the other, hidden side of her double nature.
Waldomiro Guimarães, usually called Vadinho, Dona Flor’s first husband, a gambler and profligate. The bastard scion of an important family, Vadinho lives a life that is a series of picaresque adventures. Good for nothing except making love and friends, he initially courts Flor in a cynical attempt at defloration but ends with as much tenderness as nature has granted him to give. He is a bad husband—unfaithful (even with Flor’s pupils) and spendthrift (once even hitting her to get his hands on her savings)—but a wonderful lover: His peremptory bedroom demands allow her to let go of her modesty. With the proceeds of his wildest gambling spree, he buys her a fabulous necklace of turquoise and showers the bed with banknotes. He drops dead dancing the samba during Carnival at the age of thirty-one, burned out by reckless living. He returns from the shades at Flor’s call, materializing naked in the bedroom she now shares with his “colleague,” her second husband. He is visible only to Flor but enjoys fixing the gambling tables so that his friends strike it rich on his lucky number, seventeen.
Dr. Teodoro Madureira
Dr. Teodoro Madureira, Flor’s second husband, part owner and druggist-in-charge of the Scientific Pharmacy and an enthusiastic member of the Amateur Orchestra of the Sons of Orpheus. Gentlemanly and upright, he is an outstanding member of the community whose watchword is order: Wednesday and Saturday are duly designated as days to make love once Flor has accepted his completely correct written proposal. A romantic and (too) respectful lover, he tenderly cherishes his wife, providing for her financial and physical welfare and, at one memorable concert, also performing on his bassoon a solo “Lullaby to Floripedes.”
Dona Norma de Ze Sampaio
Dona Norma de Ze Sampaio, the neighborhood guardian angel, the wife of a hypochondriac shoe-store owner. She helps Flor marry, establish her school, and survive her widowhood.
Dona Gisa, an ingenuous teacher who is stuffed with book learning and incapable of even comfortable lies. Born a gringa in America but now a Brazilian citizen (her Portuguese accent is execrable), Dona Gisa keeps up a ten-cent psychologist’s commentary on the events of Flor’s life.
Dona Rozilda, Flor’s mother, a malicious harridan with a tongue like a knife, unable to control her spasmodic outbursts of hate, particularly for Vadinho, who initially tricked her into thinking him a model suitor. Her daughter’s widowhood offers her an opportunity to get Flor back under her thumb, and Flor’s second marriage offers the means of basking in the social success she has bitterly craved.
Dionisia, a mulatto model and whore, a votary of the god Oxossi. Beautiful and a powerful worker of magic, she helps Flor conjure Vadinho back from the shades.