Pedro Archanjo, the quintessential self-made man, who, despite all racial and socioeconomic odds, fights for the rights of blacks and mestizos via his actions and publications, is one of Jorge Amado’s most vibrant, sympathetic, and humane male protagonists. In true Amado fashion, Archanjo personifies the mobilizing force of good and truthfulness over evil and falsity, an antinomy in concert with Brazil’s popular oral poetics as well as with the Marxist dialectic of the struggle of the oppressed against the oppressors. As a staunch advocate of miscegenation, individual freedom, popular culture, a natural code of honor, spontaneity, carnivalesque customs and habits, as well as the fantasy and magic inherent in African ritual and legend, Archanjo practices what he preaches. Thus, he contrasts markedly with the authoritarian and chauvinist figures of Professor Argolo and Police Chief Gordo, who represent self-aggrandizement and, respectively, bigotry and violence.
An authentic folk hero, Archanjo is portrayed as fallible at times, but in most instances he is larger than life, given his relentless commitment to racial equality and the expressed need for individual freedom, love, humanity, and truth. For these reasons, other characters serve to highlight Archanjo’s qualities and beliefs. Tadeu Canhoto, for example, Archanjo’s light-skinned illegitimate son, reflects the struggle for upward social mobility, while Rosa de Oxalá, Archanjo’s undying but never-realized love (because of his respect for his brotherly friend Lídio Corró, Rosa’s lover) attests his sense of honor. In another example, Major Damião de Souza, a mulatto self-made lawyer, represents the crusading force on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden blacks. While several characters are developed more than others in order to mirror Archanjo’s struggle, it is clear that Jorge Amado wants the reader to sympathize mostly with the protagonist since he champions the author’s thesis for racial democracy in Brazil.