Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Amado is not a writer who attempts to approach transcendent truths. In addition to the bourgeoisie-folk tension mentioned above, most of his later works have some other central hook on which the narrative is hung. In Tieta, the Goat Girl that hook is obviously the potential which rapid industrialization has to destroy all that is right and good in a community. Since rapid industrialization is more corrosive in less-developed communities, the message is perhaps more immediate to Brazilians than to Americans, since many Brazilian towns are, like Agreste, not only preindustrial but also precapitalist. Another thread of this theme is the chronic venality of government officials, here depicted as either self-serving egotists of no redeeming ethical importance or mindless bureaucrats who merely follow the rules, however witless the rules may be.

Yet Tieta, the Goat Girl is not so much an indictment of evil as a celebration of life. True to form, Amado’s narrator makes two of the most important parts of that celebration sex and cuisine, a pairing that he explored even more elaborately in his delicious Dona Flor e seus dois maridos (1966; Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, 1969). The biological imperatives of food and sex are counterpointed by a society in which social control is carried out principally by means of gossip, and the sudden appearance of a recipe for green cashew stew in the midst of an inquiry into who is sleeping with whom is intentionally comic and not a little ironic.