Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Through Guta, Queiroz poses the fundamental question of what is a woman to do with her life in the traditional Brazilian society of the Northeast, where the only honorable options are engaging in a marriage or joining a religious order. It is particularly relevant that Queiroz asked this question in the 1930’s when a career was not available as a choice to women in that society. The novel attempts to create awareness of the fact that not all women can be satisfied with marriage or nunhood, and that other honest options should become available to women. A choice of life as a single schoolteacher should be as legitimate and fulfilling as any other, and other choices must be made available for those women who are not cut out to be schoolteachers.

In effect the novel is one of the first works to pioneer the cause of women in Brazil. By focusing on a woman who cannot be either a satisfied wife and mother or a successful teacher, Queiroz calls attention to the fact that there are women who do not fit the traditional pattern, that they should not be ridiculed for that, and that just because they desire to be different, their lives should not be wasted as Maria Augusta’s is bound to be. Rachel de Queiroz joins the voice of her fellow contemporary writer Graciliano Ramos in deploring the options available for women in the Brazil of the 1930’s.