Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 637
The four excellent novellas which comprise [Armas & corações] … display all the qualities which have made Dourado a major figure in contemporary Brazilian fiction. Each of the stories in Armas & corações illustrates a different method of delaying the unfolding of the plot, and in this sense Dourado can be seen to make further use of the process explored so effectively in Novelário de Donga Novais (1976). At the same time, the author's particular reliance on point of view proves to be, here again, a central feature, in this case making an essential contribution to the delay-suspense formula. It is by narrating "Manuela em dia de chuva" from the point of view of the child Manuela, and with frequent recourse to style indirect libre, that the author is able to allow conjectures to form very gradually in the reader's mind as he follows the child's slow, frequently interrupted review and assimilation of the tragedy. In "Às seis e meia no Largo do Carmo" three points of view are used in succession, so that the same set of facts seen from different angles, even in terms of physical location, is each time superimposed on the skeleton outline: the third viewpoint, that of Orizombo the hit man, provides an unexpected denouement in a story presenting an ironical account of the workings of machismo.
If these stories are linked by method of composition, their collective purpose is further borne out not only by their being set in Dourado's fictional town of Duas Pontes, in the south of Minas Gerais, but also by the weapons and hearts of the book's title. While it may not always be wholly clear whose heart is involved, there can be no doubt as to the weapons, responsible for deaths in three of the stories and the object in all four of considerations by narrator or characters. In "Às seis e meia no Largo do Carmo" the author devotes more than a page to detailing the various revolvers owned by Quincas and establishes an undoubted relationship between them and their owner's virility, while in the case of Juvenal, would-be avenger of his sister's honor, the emphasis is inverted. The significance of the weapon is more engimatic in "Mr. Moore," but this is true of the story itself, which re-creates the parable of the lost sheep and uses the heart of the eponymous protagonist as the battlefield on which opposing forces are arrayed. Ostensibly the lost sheep is Piló, whom Mr. Moore conceals from the police, in the process neglecting his duties toward his flock; but we may wonder if the clergyman is not the sinner and Piló merely the embodiment of his failure or even the representative of the Evil One sent to test the minister's love of mankind.
If "Mr. Moore" is enigmatic, the last and longest story in the volume, "A extraordinária senhorita do País do Sonho," is mysterious. Told by a communal narrator, the story relates the strange love affair of the colossal Aristeu and the lilliputian Jezabel Kislány. The reader is faced with unknowns at every turn, concerning the protagonists individually and their life together. This is a fairy story in modern dress, but one that goes very wrong. The giant and the manikin suffer from the same problem: no one of their like to love and who will love them. They are metaphors of alienation, yet their withdrawal from society is doomed to failure; they are pieces which—as the townsfolk maliciously suppose—cannot fit together. The giant is eventually killed by his victim, but the signs are that his death is self-sought and that Jezabel leaves his "castle" without having saved anybody.
John M. Parker, "Portuguese: 'Armas & corações'," in World Literature Today (copyright 1979 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 53, No. 4, Autumn, 1979, p. 658.
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