The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

There is a large cast of colorful characters in Jubiabá, but most of them exist only to fill out the cast or to add color. Amado’s concept of character in Jubiabá is strictly ad hoc—whatever serves the purpose of the moment, usually some need of the rambling plot or diffuse theme. Poor, working-class characters make brief appearances, providing varied exhibits of how the working class is ground down. Some of these characters also allow for momentary diversions, often sentimental or titillating. For example, Ricardo the tobacco worker shows the plight of womanless men: He lies in his bunk, fantasizes about a picture of a nude actress on the wall, and masturbates. Then, in a bit of overdone irony, he accidentally blows off his hands with a bomb.

Like Ricardo, several other characters seem to be walking sideshows (some are actually in the circus, such as the Snake-Man). At least one of these serves a higher function, Viriato the dwarf, a member of Antônio’s street gang. After the gang is broken up, Viriato becomes so despondent that he drowns himself; when his corpse is pulled from the harbor, crabs can be heard rattling around inside his abdominal cavity. In the novel, Viriato’s gruesome death comes to represent one important alternative, “the road home” which Antônio sometimes contemplates and which other working-class characters take.

Some characters exist mainly to satisfy the needs of Antônio. Antônio needs a teacher, so Zé Camarão is invented. Antônio needs a street gang, so the gang is invented. Antônio...

(The entire section is 643 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Antônio Balduíno

Antônio Balduíno, also called Baldo, a black street-gang leader who survives successively as a beggar, singer and songwriter, professional boxer, plantation worker, circus artist, and eventually stevedore and strike leader. Antônio sees work as oppression or another kind of slavery, and from an early age he is determined never to earn money by being employed and to become famous through adventurous exploits and thereby get a ballad—an “ABC” in local parlance—written about himself. A heavy drinker, a fun-loving partygoer, and a womanizer, he is followed in the book from childhood to his mid-twenties. Many women love him, but he truly loves only one in return, a white girl, Lindinalva. She is the daughter of the rich Portuguese man who takes him in as a houseworker when Antônio’s aunt (and only living relative) goes crazy. When Lindinalva dies, after asking him to look after her son, he is forced to take a job to support the boy.


Jubiabá, an old voodoo priest of the candomblé or macumba religion, a patriarch to the community on Capa-Negro Hill. He is thought to be one of only two free men there, along with Zé Camarão, and both are persecuted by the police as a result. People come to him for herbal remedies when sick as well as to have him cast spells. He is an important figure for Antônio, both as a friend and as a symbol of wisdom and independence.

Old Luísa

Old Luísa, Antônio’s aunt, who rears him alone until she goes crazy. A talker and storyteller, she cooks food and sells it downtown every night, with Antônio helping her. She often beats him for fighting and mischief but rarely hurts him, because he dodges the blows easily. She dies at the asylum after going insane when Antônio is still young.

Zé Camarão

Zé Camarão, a storyteller, singer, and capoeira fighter. This mulatto is an important role model for Antônio, who admires him because he is brave and a good ballad singer. He teaches Antônio the guitar and capoeira fighting.


Amelia, a Portuguese cook who hates...

(The entire section is 902 words.)