Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon

by Jorge Amado

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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 780

I have already told you Father, more than once: I’m not going to subject myself to a husband chosen for me, I’m not going to bury myself in some planter’s kitchen, and I’m not going to be a servant to some doctor or lawyer in Ilhéus. I want to live my own life. When I finish school at the end of the year, I want to go to work in an office.

Malvina’s defiance of her father in Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon is very much symptomatic of the progressive forces gaining influence across Brazil during the 1920s, characterized in the town of Ilhéus by Falcão. These forces are defined in large part by the efforts of reformers to equalize the gender and power dynamics. In a sense, Malvina functions as a mirror for Gabriela, in that while both women aspire to a freedom not afforded to them by tradition, the latter desires a physical freedom, to do with her body as she chooses, while the former desires freedom to use her mind as she chooses.

Interestingly, though Malvina rejects the bourgeois professions of “doctor” and “lawyer” for potential husbands, her ambition to become an office worker suggests she has not rejected the middle-class establishment outright, as might be suggested by the “controversial” literature she reads. Rather than overthrowing the system, her ambitions are rather to be permitted the freedom to succeed within its parameters.

I said there are certain flowers that wilt if you put them in a vase.

The metaphor here evoked is the very fate that Malvina fears. She knows that to suffer the restrictions of marriage to a man whom she does not love would result in the decline of her intellectual and emotional faculties. Her awareness of this reality is such that, even having suffered a violent attack by her father, she chooses the uncertainty and danger of homelessness rather than the surrender of her freedom. For Gabriela—a character who is compared on more than one occasion to a flower—a vase would be intolerable, a fact that Saad comes to recognize.

That’s the very reason why love is eternal, because it is forever renewed. Passions die, love remains.

The distinction drawn by Amado between “love” and “passions” is significant to his plot in Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, especially to the relationship between Gabriela and Saad. The implication of this statement is that though Gabriela still wants to indulge her passions with other men, the love she has for Saad will outlast these passions and is thus elevated above them. Saad’s ability to look beyond his passions, to keep himself from acting on his furious impulses when he discovers Gabriela’s infidelities, is moreover shown to have been a wise decision; with time, he recognizes that his love for her had endured despite what he at first saw as a betrayal.

The relationship the pair eventually find is an ideal one for Amado, as it recognizes the continuation of their love while also allowing for fleeting passions to be expressed freely.

I believe that she has the kind of magic that causes revolutions and promotes great discoveries. There’s nothing I enjoy more than to observe Gabriela in the midst of a group of people. Do you know what she reminds me of? A fragrant rose in a bouquet of artificial flowers.

In Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon , Amado portrays two processes of revolution taking place in Ilhéus, the “masculine” and the “feminine.” The “masculine” revolutionary spirit, characterized by Falcão manifests as political and legal reform, while the “feminine” revolutionary spirit that Gabriela represents has to do with...

(This entire section contains 780 words.)

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culture, being related to implicit behaviors and attitudes. Through the sexual and individual freedom she exercises, Gabriela constitutes for the women and men of Ilhéus an example of how realize a freedom which is not merely political but personal. This idea is furthered by the metaphor that portrays women as flowers and shows her to be the only “natural,” organic flower among other flowers which have been constructed to appear a certain way and to perform a certain function.

The world is like that—incomprehensible and full of surprises.

This worldview constitutes a challenge to the worldview characterized by the colonels and the traditions they represent and uphold in the town of Ilhéus. Where the colonels celebrate continuity and stability—virtues that make the world tractable and reliable—the conception of the world as a dynamic place where anything is possible is far more in keeping with the realities of Brazil in the 1920s, which had begun to experience the creeping influence of globalization.




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