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.)