Last Reviewed on June 2, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 384
Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado is a powerful novel about personal growth, personal freedom, and societal and political change. Gabriela, the beautiful and skilled cook who works at Nacib’s bar in Ilhéus, is a free-spirited, multiracial woman whose indigenous roots and free spirit represent a pre-colonized Brazil. Gabriela is much admired by Nacib and the men of the town for her fantastic cooking skills and for her breathtaking beauty. Gabriela lives in a time in which Brazil’s political system reflects a conservative, colonized element of Brazil, in which women are subjugated and a few wealthy individuals dominate all others.
Gabriela, described as having cinnamon-colored skin that smells of clove, represents those who will not bow down to the regime. Patriarchal violence is firmly cemented in the laws of this Brazilian society. A commonly accepted practice exists that allows men to kill their wives if they find that they have had an affair, and the man who murders his wife does not face punishment. Gabriela’s refusal to be made into a traditional housewife represents a rebellion against this societal order.
When Nacib finds that Gabriela has been having an affair, his decision not to murder her represents the beginning of a change in the Brazilian society. Rather than murder her, as would be accepted by society and government officials alike, Nacib chooses to dissolve their marriage and fire her from her cooking position. Eventually, however, Nacib cannot deny his love for Gabriela and seeks to return to her with a newfound acceptance of her as a free, independent human being who can make her own choices in life.
This interpersonal story is reflective of a larger change throughout Brazilian society. The established, right-wing, conservative order in the story is being challenged by a left-wing political movement that is spreading across Brazil. In the small town of Ilhéus, moderate politician Mundinho Falcão seeks to bring social change locally. His run for office is brutally resisted by the old, established order, but he eventually wins the election and reforms are put into place.
The colonel of the old order, who shot his wife for not following his monogamous morals, is put into prison for her murder, which signals a change in the previously accepted misogynistic norms of their society.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 667
*Ilhéus (ihl-YAY-us). Hot and humid port on the seacoast of tropical northeastern Brazil’s Bahia state, where most of the action takes place. After years of violent land disputes among the powerful cacao barons, Ilhéus is enjoying an economic boom. Amado chronicles the folkways and growing prosperity of the town, depicting with subtle irony and humor the elite cacao planters, who enjoy houses in Ilhéus, where they keep their mistresses and control local politics. His other characters include members of the intelligentsia, titled aristocracy, urban-class professionals, prostitutes, gunmen, and migrants escaping the drought of the backlands.
*Sandbar. Natural obstacle in Ilhéus’s harbor that is the principal problem preventing large ships from entering the harbor, thereby threatening the prosperity of Ilhéus. Mundinho Falcão, a bachelor and wealthy, politically ambitious exporter recently arrived from Rio de Janeiro, wants to improve the harbor. Through his family and political contacts, he eventually succeeds in bringing an engineer, skilled workmen, and equipment to dredge the harbor. This ensures his political success, especially when his rival, Ramiro Bastos, dies.
*Town square. Center of life in Ilhéus. Located here is the church, where prayers are offered up for relief from drought or floods threatening to ruin the cacao crop. The women gather here to gossip. The Model Stationery Store, where the intelligentsia gather to discuss politics, is located here. Also here are the houses of the wealthy: Colonel Ramiro Bastos, the aging town boss who opposes progress and hates Falcão for his port project; Colonel Melk Tavares, whose daughter Malvina ignores the lovesick Professor Josué pacing outside her gate; and Colonel Coriolano Ribeiro, whose lonely, voluptuous mistress Glória sits in the window, trying to seduce the men of Ilhéus who pass below.
Vesuvius Bar. On St. Sebastian Street near the square, the most popular bar in Ilhéus, where the elite male population gathers to drink and gossip. It is owned by Nacib Saad, whose popularity and success depend on the delicious snacks served in his bar. When he loses his cook, the desperate Nacib hires a dirty migrant, Gabriela, who is transformed after a bath into a cinnamon-brown mulata smelling of clove. She soon gains a reputation as the best cook in Ilhéus and loves working in the bar, where she is sought after as a cook and mistress by many of the rich men in town.
Nacib’s house. House in which Gabriela is content to sleep with Nacib and work for him, but he fears losing his cook and mistress and decides to make her his wife.
*Cacao region. Region served by the port of Ilhéus. Although Rio de Janeiro is the capital of Brazil at the time the novel is set, there is little national political unity, and each region enjoys great autonomy. Cacao has made this the richest region in the state, following the violent land struggles of the cacao barons during Amado’s childhood. The barons control the votes in their districts and hold the real power.
*Bahia. Northeastern Brazilian state where Ilhéus is located. The region is at the mercy of severe droughts, which cause mass migrations of peasants from the backlands seeking work in Ilhéus and the cacao region.
*Salvador. Former capital of Brazil, in Bahia, to which landowners send their children to be educated. Located north of Ilhéus, Salvador is the principal port of the state of Bahia. Because of the sandbar in Ilhéus, cacao must be shipped abroad through this city, causing an immense loss in exportation taxes to Ilhéus.
*Itabuna. Metropolis of the vast interior of Bahia west of Ilhéus. Falcão gains the support of the mayor there, who is then attacked on a visit to Ilhéus and left for dead by a hired killer of the Bastos supporters. The people of Itabuna rally behind Falcão.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 218
Chamberlain, Bobby J. “Escape from the Tower: Women’s Liberation in Amado’s Gabriela, cravo e canela.” In Prismal/Cabral: Revista de Literatura Hispanica/Caderno AfroBrasi-leiro Asiatico Lustitano 6 (Spring, 1981): 70-86. Discusses feminist issues in the novel. Sees Gabriela as a victim of male power and a source of liberation.
Ellison, Fred P. Brazil’s New Novel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1954. Discusses the political impulse of Amado’s early novels. Useful for judging the change in Amado’s writing represented by Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon.
Hall, Linda B. “Jorge Amado: Women, Love, and Possession.” Southwest Review 68 (Winter, 1983): 67-77. Discusses male and female relationships in Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon and other Amado novels.
Keating, L. Clark. “The Guys and Dolls of Jorge Amado.” Hispania 66 (September, 1983): 340-344. Discusses Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon in the context of other Amado novels in which the author’s ultimate aim is to reform society. Amado’s most frequent strategy is the use of heavy irony.
Martin, John, and Donna L. Bodegraven. “Mythical Patterns in Jorge Amado’s Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon and Bruno Barreto’s Film Gabriela.” In Film and Literature: A Comparative Approach to Adaptation, edited by Wendell Aycock and Michael Schoenecke. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1988. Focuses on the characterization of Gabriela and Nacib and the novel’s sources in classical myth.