The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Among all of Rachel de Queiroz’s characters, Guta stands out as the one who is totally incapable of making a choice regarding her life. As she watches her two close friends and other school companions make decisions about their lives, she slowly realizes that none of them is for her.

Her companions’ choices of marriage, concubinage, prostitution, the theater, or nunhood as a way of life were not meant for her. Guta had hoped to find life’s meaning in something very special, but that something was very elusive. While Guta envies Gloria’s fairy-tale marriage and happiness, she feels sorry for the repressed, guilt-ridden Maria Jose, who will spend her life as a spinster schoolteacher.

In search of something special, Guta gets a job as a typist. Bored out of her mind by the monotony of the typing job, she continues her search. She thinks she has found her life’s purpose when she falls madly in love with a famous, distinguished-looking painter, many years her senior. To sacrifice her life in the service of this great man seems like a noble mission to her.

The great painter, however, is interested only in bedroom scenes, for which Guta is not ready. While pursuing the painter, however, she fails to see the great love that Maria Jose’s cousin Aluisio has for her. Aluisio’s suicide and his family’s consequent reprimands drive Guta to seek her fortune in Rio de Janeiro.

The author presents very skillfully the fears and loneliness experienced by a young small-town girl in the midst of the big impersonal metropolis. Contrary to Guta’s expectations, the big city only aggravates her problem. The something special does not materialize in Rio, and Isaac, the man with whom she falls in love, because of personal problems rooted in his immigrant status, is incapable of offering her the lasting love and support for which she has hoped. Following a painful miscarriage, which may have been a purposely induced abortion, Guta returns to the family home,...

(The entire section is 820 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Maria “Guta” Augusta

Maria “Guta” Augusta (ow-GEWS-tah), the narrator, a student in a girls’ boarding school and later a typist in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil. Awkward and fearful, she is relieved to find friends during her first days at the nuns’ school; she, Maria José, and Gloria share one another’s hopes, enthusiasms, fantasies, and discouragements. After graduation, Guta tires of the monotony of home life, gets a job in Fortaleza, and soon moves in with Maria José. Guta is intrigued by a middle-aged bohemian painter, Raul; he paints her portrait and almost seduces her. Guta’s father sends her money for a trip to Rio because she is depressed after a friend, Aluísio, commits suicide, and in Rio she meets a young Romanian doctor, Isaac, falls in love, and returns to Fortaleza pregnant. After a miscarriage and illness, she returns home to Crato, in the Cariri region, where her father, her dull and virtuous stepmother, and her younger half brothers and half sisters live.

Maria José

Maria José (hoh-SEH), Guta’s closest friend and the first girl to befriend her at the nuns’ school. After they have left school and are working, Maria José, who teaches school and is devoutly religious, shares her room in her mother’s house with Guta.

Maria da Gloria

Maria da Gloria, called Gloria, Guta’s other close friend at the convent school and afterward. Orphaned at the age of twelve, Gloria venerated the memory of the...

(The entire section is 645 words.)