Gabriela, a mulatto girl from the backlands. She comes to Ilhéus, in the Brazilian province of Bahia, to escape the drought. Her physical charms, including cinnamon-colored skin that always smells of cloves, and her ingenuous personality make her irresistible to everyone she meets. She is hired by Nacib Saad, the owner of a local bar. She lacks formal education, but her ability to prepare delicious Bahian dishes and her beauty soon make the bar popular. Gabriela and Nacib become lovers, a situation that pleases the girl. For her, sex is a natural part of life that should be shared with whomever she chooses. She and Nacib marry, making her a member of an exclusive social circle. The trappings of affluence restrict her physically and emotionally. Their marriage is annulled after Nacib finds Gabriela in bed with another man, but soon the estranged lovers are reunited and resume the same type of relationship they enjoyed before their marriage.
Nacib Saad, the Syrian owner of the Vesuvius Bar. He passionately loves Gabriela and wants to be the only man in her life. He marries her but soon notes that her passion is not as intense as it was before the marriage. When he finds her with Tonico, he wants to kill her, as any betrayed Brazilian husband should. He cannot do so, and in failing, he reflects the modern attitude gradually taking hold in tradition-bound Ilhéus.
(The entire section is 511 words.)