Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon

by Jorge Amado

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

The Futility in Attempting to Change Others

In Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, Gabriela and Nacib fall in love and Nacib attempts to shape the free and strong-willed Gabriela into a dutiful housewife and cook. When Gabriela refuses domesticity and monogamy, Nacib dissolves their marriage and fires her from her position. However, her cooking skills and beauty accounted for much of his bar’s success. With Gabriela gone, his business falters, and Nacib realizes how much he misses her. Gabriela represents the history and soul of the land that has been colonized by the Spanish. She represents the roots of the freer side of Brazil.

Cultural Tradition and Oppression

Nacib, in accordance with the relatively recently created traditional laws of Brazil, could have killed Gabriela for sleeping with other men. However, he knows that he loves her and cannot bring himself to do such a thing. Instead, Nacib and Gabriela eventually return to each other, and Gabriela resumes her position cooking her wonderful food and is no longer bound to a monogamous relationship. She is free to express her affection to Nacib as well as others. The decision on Nacib’s part to accept Gabriela represents personal growth and change and is a microcosm of the change that is beginning to be seen across the country.

The Impact of Social Changes on the Individual

In the story, political change is apparent across Brazil, as the right-wing regime is being replaced by a more leftist government that seeks to take some of the power away from corporations and rich individuals and to do away with some of the more patriarchal practices of Brazil. The development of the relationship between Gabriela and Nacib illustrates the interpersonal-level impact of these broad cultural changes. As law and custom become less patriarchal and more progressive, their relationship becomes less dependent on Gabriela’s conformity to Nacib’s (and their culture’s) expectations of gender roles.

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