The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Maria das Dores is a complex protagonist because her passionate nature expresses itself in so many ways. During her life at Soledade, it rests behind her bitter, competitive relationship with Senhora, her persistent yearning for maternal love, her refusal to forgive the unworthy Laurindo, her single-minded desire to protect Delmiro, and her idyllic vision of the lost father who tenderly called her Dôralina. Later, it leads to her becoming an actress, to her challenging the morality of her culture by living with the Captain, to her celebrating their tender moments together, and to her feeling jealous toward anyone who receives affection from him. At its most dangerous, her passionate nature luxuriates in the Captain’s occasionally very violent, bullying behavior: Being with him gives her the freedom to act irresponsibly, to feel “delight in the taste of power, provoking everybody who was afraid to respond.” When she behaves like this, Dôra realizes that she is indeed the strong-willed Senhora’s daughter. Finally, this will to power helps Dôra survive the Captain’s death, for it leads her back to the ranch, which is now her possession: “A king dead is a king deposed. The Sinhá Dona had died and I had arrived. . . .”

While Dôra is the novel’s most dynamic creation, Queiroz also successfully draws Senhora, Laurindo, the Captain, and Brandini—all these characters being colored by the protagonist’s passionate attitude toward them. Senhora initially seems to be a monstrous maternal figure as she controls her ranch, her daughter, and herself with an iron hand. She is, as Dôra stresses, the “man of the house,” who renounces the tender side of her nature in order to step over all obstacles threatening her authority. Thus, Dôra’s alienation is well justified. Yet Queiroz tries to be fair to Senhora, as well. She indicates that this woman, like Dôra, has been the victim...

(The entire section is 777 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Maria das Dores

Maria das Dores, called Dôra or Doralina, the narrator and central character, who recounts her life from her late teenage years through her marriage, her career as an actress traveling around Brazil, her years in Rio de Janeiro, and her return to the Northeastern ranch where she was reared. Her ambivalent relationship with her mother is not resolved until the end, when she takes her mother’s place as the head of the Soledade ranch. Dôra’s resentment of her mother leads to early acts of defiance: She shelters and protects a wounded bandit, Raimundo Delmiro, when she is fourteen years old and at twenty-two marries a young surveyor, Laurindo Quirino, who courts both Dôra and her mother. Twenty-six years old when Laurindo dies, she leaves the ranch and lives for a time in the nearby city of Fortaleza, then joins an itinerant company of actors, using the stage name of Nely Sorel. The company tours Brazil and, as it travels toward Rio, Dôra meets a handsome ship captain and falls in love. She and the Captain settle in Rio, living there for a number of years. When he dies of typhoid, she seeks refuge at Soledade and busies herself putting the long-neglected ranch back into good running order.


Senhora, Dôra’s mother, widowed when Dôra was young. She presides over the Soledade ranch and the people who live there. Dôra feels that her mother is cold and uncommunicative, that she never really shares her life or her power with her daughter but instead considers her to be a competitor and rival. Only when her mother dies does Dôra feel that she can go home again to Soledade and make a life for herself there.

Laurindo Quirino

Laurindo Quirino (kih-REE-new), a distant relative of...

(The entire section is 741 words.)