Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Critics have associated Queiroz with a group of writers (including José Lins do Rego, Jorge Amado, and Graciliano Ramos) who were bred in the remote Northeastern areas of Brazil and who burst onto the Brazilian literary scene in the 1930’s to create what has been called “the novel of the Northeast.” As Fred P. Ellison explains, this genre of the Brazilian novel is “characterized by its interest in man in his regional environment, by its implicit (and sometimes explicit) note of social protest, and by its endeavor to discover psychological truths in man, no matter what his walk of life. . . .” Dôra, Doralina can be seen as a late and interesting addition to this genre. The novel begins and ends with graphic descriptions of Dôra’s life in the Northeast as she is both repulsed by and drawn to her family’s ranch. Moreover, through Dôra’s struggle to find individual freedom, Queiroz once again explores a social issue that is in all of her novels: the degrading secondary status of most women in this region.

Yet Dôra, Doralina, which has rightly been called Queiroz’s most ambitious and accomplished novel, goes far beyond being merely a regional work. It contains her broadest vision of Brazilian society, as Dôra travels to many cities when she is with Brandini’s company before settling in Rio de Janeiro with the Captain. In addition, it continues Queiroz’s movement from the sociological emphases of her earliest works toward the psychological realism of As três Marias (1939; The Three Marias, 1963). Thus, with unflinching honesty, Queiroz reveals the subtleties of Dôra’s character and in the process—with more depth than ever before—develops some of the prevailing themes within her fiction: the ambivalent nature of memories, the human need for nurturing maternal love, the difficulties and beauties of male-female relationships, and the individual’s painful existence in a universe where the “good things in life occur less often, the evil ten times more.”