Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon

by Jorge Amado

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Student Question

What were the socio-cultural costs and benefits of progress in Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon?

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In Jorge Amado's 1958 novel, Gabriela, Clove and Cinammon, the Brazilian town of Ilheus is being transformed and "modernized" and much of the conflict in the novel is between the older aspects of the town and the new forces that are changing it. In the first chapter, a character notes that a record cacao crop has generated interest in Ilheus and brought an influx of money and a new class of people to the town. As is often the case, the advantages of capitalism are jobs, law, wealth, and infrastructure. Streets are paved and parks are built, but the disadvantages of the change are also considerable. Suddenly politics are a big party of their society. Furthermore, money creates classes, making even more clear the distinctions between workers and owners.

"Progress" becomes a key word as the novel progresses. Everyone is initially excited about what it might entail, envisioning the town receiving new homes or streetlights. Yet an underlying theme is that something about the character of a place is irrevocably lost when money, industry, and politics take hold of it. As Amado writes,

In short, the town was losing the armed-camp that had characterized it during the violent days of the struggle for the land.

There's a nostalgia for the earlier and rougher period when things were harder, but there was more freedom and individuality. However, this critique of modernism and progress remains in the background. The main story line concerns the café owner Nacib and his romance with the poor, beautiful Gabriela.

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