The novel consists of a retrospective view of the lives of the narrator, Maria Augusta (Guta), her two close friends, Maria Jose and Maria da Gloria, and other boarding school companions. After recounting with great sensitivity their first encounter at boarding school, Guta goes on to tell about their school adventures and about the choices they have to make about their lives. In the crucial years before and after graduation from high school, each of the schoolgirls searches for a direction to give her life. Each of the girls makes a very different choice. The three Marias epitomize this difference of choice. Maria da Gloria becomes “a happy wife and mother,” Maria Jose becomes a schoolteacher, and the narrator herself remains “a frustrated seeker of satisfying values.”
As the novel begins, Maria Augusta makes a fearful entry into the institution run by nuns. Frightened and insecure, she wants to hold on to the sister who escorted her in, especially when she discovers that all the commotion and excitement which she observes on arrival is not caused as much by the arrival of a “new” girl as by her silly-sounding name, Guta.
As the girls torment and tease her mercilessly, Guta bashfully responds to their barrage of questions, timidly explaining the facts of her life, such as her age, her hometown, her parents, and the origin of her nickname. “Guta” is simply a degeneration of “Augusta,” a name that Guta was unable to...
(The entire section is 438 words.)