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.)