The Violent Land Analysis
By creating a fictional account of a particular phase of Brazilian history, Jorge Amado brings to life the social, political, and economic issues that fed into the agricultural development of the country’s northern territory. A multi-generational family saga is used to highlight personal qualities that supported or undermined successful development. Amado’s fictional families, the Siqueiras and the Baldarós, largely exist in opposition, as the members aim to build their own empire at the expense of the other clan. The author shows how the corrupt deals on both sides create quasi-military strongholds that effectively rule the provinces and block the possibility of effective federal control. Although the original Portuguese title literally means “endless” lands rather than “violent” lands, the novel shows violent as a deliberately employed tool, not an accidental byproduct, of the quest for political-economic control.
Because it is a novel, Amado emphasizes personal relations, joys, and sorrows. Individual family members betray their own people through involvement with the other side. The frustrations of unhappily married men and women combine with unprincipled sexual aggression and uncontrollable passions to form shifting love triangles which, the reader can readily predict, will not end well. The newcomers to the territory, hailing from cosmopolitan urban centers, often adjust with difficulty and seek solace in affairs; a good example is the lawyer Virgilio Cabral, who falls in love with a married woman, Ester Silveira, who seeks refuge from her husband’s boorish ways. Cabral’s greed and feigned devotion sets in motion a set of violent events, including sabotage, arson, vigilante violence, and even murder.
Although the female characters seem conventional, even stereotypical for most of the novel, as the action heats up, the women step up to protect their families, homes, and lands. Ester dies from nursing her sick husband (on whom she had been cheating), but Ana Baldarós fiercely defends her home from invaders. While Amado does not tie up all the loose ends, or convey that the wicked are always punished, he provides a resolution for the Silveira story, as Ester’s husband learns of her affair with Cabral, in whose loyalty he had trusted, and has him killed. This type of justice is consistent with Amado’s overall characterization of a Wild West mentality in this remote frontier.
*Sequeiro Grande (see-KAY-roh GRAHN-day). Forest region of prime cacao-growing land in northeastern Brazil. In his foreword to the English translation of the novel, Jorge Amado describes his own boyhood in the area and states that his portrait of the land and its inhabitants is a true one. He also states that the story contains the very “roots” of his being and means more to him than any of his other books. In his novel, the Sequeiro Grande is sought by both the Horacio and Badaró families, whose plantations are located on opposite sides of the region’s still-unclaimed interior. The forest is likened to a lovely young virgin whose appeal far transcends that of mere money, which makes the narrative both a story about a love triangle and a chronicle of economic conflict. The novel’s conception of male sexual drive as the engine of economic expansion is mirrored in its treatments of love relationships, which are similarly envisaged as dramas of a man’s need to possess, control, and exploit the woman he desires.
Horacio plantation (oh-RAH-see-oh). Home of Colonel Horacio da Silveira and his wife, Ester. Important units of social organization on the Brazilian frontier, plantations are depicted in the novel as both outposts of civilization and feudal kingdoms reflecting their owners’ personalities. Although Colonel Horacio’s fields are worked by poorly paid laborers under the supervision of armed foremen, he is sufficiently responsive to the needs of his “retainers” to command their loyalty...
(The entire section is 1,238 words.)