Cardoso, "Children Playing by the Sea: the Dynamics of Appropriation in the Brazilian Romantic Novel"

Sullen Fires Across the Atlantic:
Essays in Transatlantic Romanticism

Children Playing by the Sea: the Dynamics of
Appropriation in the Brazilian Romantic Novel

André Cardoso, New York University

  1. The Brazilian novel is born in the early 1840s as a response for the demands of a reading public formed by an incipient bourgeoisie that, although limited (only 14.8% of the Brazilian population was literate by 1890, and this number was probably even lower by the middle of the century [Carvalho 65]), avidly consumed European novels either in the original—brought by the ships that docked in the harbor of Rio de Janeiro after their periodic trips across the Atlantic—or in translations sold by the budding publishing houses in the capital or published by newspapers in the form of feuilletons (Cândido 119-22). Novels available in the country ranged from eighteenth-century sentimental novels, such as Saint-Pierre's Paul et Virginie and Isabelle de Montolieu's Caroline de Lichtfield, to the latest productions by Balzac.[1] As it searched for its own form, the early Brazilian novel had to establish itself in relation to the novelistic corpus circulating in the country at the time. How did it navigate this sea of foreign models? And more importantly, how did it imagine its position in this broader transatlantic literary culture?

  2. Joaquim Manuel de Macedo's A Moreninha represents a privileged entryway to a discussion of the formation of the novel in Brazil. Published in 1844, it is one of the first Brazilian novels, but, more interestingly, it can show how the interplay of different foreign literary models was pervasive in that period, and how the manipulation of these models was conscious and deliberate. Far from being an automatic attempt to copy the latest trends of European literature, the appropriation of foreign models by the early Brazilian novel was highly selective and in itself played important aesthetic and ideological roles. More importantly, A Moreninha may also show how the formation of a national identity, so important for the Brazilian novel at the time, was largely based on the interplay of these literary models imported from Europe, and that it takes place in an intermediary space that can be called transatlantic.

  3. "This little novel owes its existence solely to the days of leisure and relaxation that I spent in beautiful Itaboraí during my vacations last year," declares the author in his preface to the novel (Macedo 43).[2] If we take the preface at face value, the novel is supposed to have been written very casually, as a pastime to fill out the days of a pleasant but uneventful vacation, and the constant appeals to the leniency of the reading public imply that it is meant to be read in the same spirit. The authorial persona goes out of his way to stress that A Moreninha is an amusing fiction, the result of the "frolics" of his imagination, and should not be taken seriously. More than a disclaimer for the possible shortcomings of the novel—or for eventual breaches of propriety in the text, which are never too daring and are always controlled by the narrative itself—the preface seems to serve the purpose, above all else, of grounding the novel not as a breakthrough in Brazilian literature (and certainly not as "art"), but as an unpretentious and agreeable entertainment.

  4. Nevertheless, this avowedly unpretentious novel demonstrates a great concern with the European literary models circulating in the country at the time it was written, and it seems more interested in situating itself in relation to these models than to the social environment it is supposed to portray—or, more accurately, it translates the relationships that give form to this social environment in terms of the circulation of European literary paradigms. Indeed, the first chapter of the novel already places the whole narrative that is to follow in the context of the circulation of styles, none of which is considered essentially Brazilian, in spite of the chain of identifications in which they are involved, as we will see presently. Filipe, a student in Rio de Janeiro, invites three of his colleagues to spend a weekend at his grandmother's house on an island near the city. As an enticement for his friends, he uses the allurement of his two beautiful cousins. He describes the eldest as having black hair, dark eyes, and as being pale. The youngest is blond, with blue eyes, and has an "alabaster breast" (50). The two girls are respectively—and explicitly—associated to the literary paradigms of romantic and classical beauty in the text, and it is this explicit association that makes them irresistible. Nevertheless, as a further incentive to drag his friends to an otherwise appalling weekend with his grandmother, Filipe mentions his younger sister, who is only described as a fourteen-year-old moreninha.[3] The students cannot place her under an existing literary paradigm. Her characterization as a moreninha, however, is enough to posit her as a typical Brazilian beauty, opposed to the romantic and classical beauties of the other two girls, which, in their paleness, have a foreign aspect. Apparently, it is also enough to establish her character: she is no doubt "interesting, unruly and funny" (51), as declares one of the friends—and that is indeed what we find she is, when we finally get to meet her.

  5. The promise to meet the three girls convinces even Augusto, the most recalcitrant of the four friends. Augusto is also accused of being a romantic—"accused" because his romanticism is associated to his inconstancy, to his continuous flirting. He defends himself by insisting that he is sincere in his insincerity: he tells all his girlfriends he is inconstant. Augusto's romanticism is criticized as an affectation, an imitation of fashionable mannerisms made popular by French novels, and as an excuse for his inconstancy. His claims to sincerity, however, point to the possibility of a hidden truthfulness behind the coat of form and appearances.

  6. Augusto boasts that he will probably flirt with the three girls at the same time, without growing truly attached to any of them. But Filipe insists Augusto will fall madly in love with one of them and remain hopelessly absorbed by her—at least for a while. They decide to settle the dispute in a bet: if Augusto falls in love with any girl in the island—and is faithful to her for at least fifteen days—he will have to write a novel telling of his defeat; if, on the other hand, he leaves the island unscathed, Filipe will have to write another novel on the triumph of Augusto's inconstancy. Yes, A Moreninha is the final result, as we learn in the last chapter of the book.

  7. The whole narrative of the novel, therefore, is bracketed into a literary game—and, as Sant'Anna points out, the figure of the game is central in A Moreninha (95-96). The people gathered on the island engage in a series of games throughout the novel, and these include courtship, a game with very specific rules. This gaming is tied to the playful tone of the book and to the kind of pleasure it tries to create. But games are first and foremost the domain of form. They are based on a set of arbitrary rules that elicit a certain number of gestures which are therefore typified, stylized by them. These gestures have no meaning outside the motions of the game. In A Moreninha, games are the way forms circulate and are negotiated. Most of the social interactions in the book revolve around flirting or are erotically tinged. Love is no doubt the social glue of the little society on the island. But flirting, or courtship, in this novel involves the assumption of very specific rules and kinds of behavior, based on transatlantic literary codes. Social interaction, then, is seen as a game that promotes the circulation of forms—represented here by European literary paradigms—and where identities are constructed according to adherence or opposition to those forms. And these forms, these literary paradigms, mostly of Portuguese, French or British origins, are strangely eroticized, in accordance to the importance of love as a social binder in A Moreninha.[4]

  8. One example may make this clearer. Before going to the island, Augusto receives a letter from Fabrício, one of the friends at the bet scene. Fabrício reveals that in fact he is courting Filipe's avowedly "romantic" cousin, but the whole thing bores him terribly. D. Joaninha writes him endless letters in which she pours out her soul. He is forced to reply, writing at least four letters each week, and is at a loss as to how to find more idiocies to write and money to buy more paper. D. Joaninha has established a whole set of signs that they must exchange when they meet at the theater, and she wants to regulate how he dresses, how he cuts his hair, and what kind of cigars he smokes.

  9. D. Joaninha forces upon Fabrício a set of attitudes and behaviors directly extracted from her romantic readings. Fabrício, of course, is perfectly aware of that, for he, too, is a reader: "I must call her 'my beautiful cousin' and she calls me 'dear cousin'. From this I conclude that D. Joana has read the Faublas. Now, that's a commendable quality!" (66). Fabrício's disapproving tone casts suspicions on D. Joaninha's readings as consisting of useless and morally questionable popular French novels, but it is possible that a criticism based on matters of national identity is also present.[5] The love affair between Fabrício and D. Joaninha constitutes itself in the playing out of literary stereotypes, which finally shape their identities. D. Joaninha has no psychology besides playing the romantic heroine, and Fabrício's character is established in his opposition to romanticism (although he is familiar with D. Joaninha's reading matter, he insists he is a classicist). His complaints against D. Joaninha reflect an aesthetical incompatibility, a desire to return to his previous literary affiliation. He declares that, being a classicist "body and soul," he "calls things by their real names." Although everybody says D. Joaninha is "pale," Fabrício thinks rather that she is "yellow." "What used to be considered insipidity in a girl is now just the opposite: sublime languidness! There are no longer impudent or vain girls… Those who were like that are now called girls of spirit! The romantic school has reformed all this in consideration to the fair sex," complains Fabrício (67-68). Actually, Fabrício's classicism reveals a very practical mindset: he prefers real kisses to the ones only dreamed of as dictated by romantic platonic love; he also immensely enjoys the pastries and sweets served during visits of courtship (61).

  10. Classicism, in Brazil, was associated to a colonial literature, directly influenced by Portuguese culture, while romanticism was associated with the desire to create an independent, national literature, and the search for new models and a greater formal liberty. Nevertheless, in spite of all its claims of attempting to create a national culture, Brazilian romanticism is largely molded after French romanticism, which serves as a sort of template for the first Brazilian romantics, most of whom published their first works in the 1830s in literary magazines written and published in Paris (Cândido 11-13). Given Fabrício's nostalgia for a more "classicist" time when "things were called by their real names," it may not be too far-fetched to associate him to the colonial past and to the practical and exploitative Portuguese colonizer. It is indeed this practical mindset and the materiality associated to it that Augusto condemns when trying to convince Fabrício of the beauties of romantic spirituality and idealism—and Fabrício's curiosity concerning the romantic lifestyle confirms it as new and modern. The clash between classicism and romanticism represented in the relationship between Fabrício and D. Joaninha points to the moment of a shift in paradigms and the replacement of one circle of cultural influences by another. In rough terms, this may be described as a shift from classicism, associated with tradition, the colonial past, and a set of rigid formal rules directly connected to Portuguese literary practices, to romanticism, associated with modernity, formal liberty and French culture—which was a symbol of cosmopolitanism in nineteenth-century Brazil and which seemed to offer an escape from the limiting, exclusivist exchange between the recently independent nation and its former Portuguese colonizer.

  11. What is most interesting in Fabrício's complaints against D. Joaninha, however, is that different lifestyles and points of view are directly and inescapably linked to literary trends, and that what would be in principle a clash between two competing literary/cultural paradigms is converted into a problematic love affair. Fabrício's courtship of D. Joaninha involves a circulation of international literary models ready to be "tried out" and left aside when found unsatisfactory. If the association of Fabrício's classicism to his longing for pastries presents this particular paradigm under a ludicrous light (and romanticism as represented by D. Joaninha and her irritating mannerisms does not fare much better), it is in the circulation and interaction of these literary models—and their being posited as objects of desire—that their characteristics, their merits and their usefulness can be played out. This logic of circulation, however, soon reveals itself as a logic of consumption. Fabrício sees D. Joaninha for the first time at the theater, but to reach her he must use her young slave, Tobias, as a go-between. Tobias, of course, charges dearly for his services, which are very similar to those of a pimp. D. Joana is one of the few characters whose affiliation and social situation are clearly and precisely stated in the novel: she is the daughter of a rich merchant. But here she becomes the merchandise, and the slave, who is her property, becomes the merchant. Finally, Fabrício literally pays for his love affair (buying paper and theater tickets, and bribing Tobias) and in the process he almost exhausts his allowance.

  12. The association of this love affair to consumptive circulation and monetary expenditure dooms it to failure. D. Joaninha's compulsive writing is more a formal exigency of her role as the romantic heroine of an imaginary epistolary novel—the kind of novel which was so popular in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Britain and France, and which was still being translated and widely read in 1840s Brazil—than a means of expression, and although she is genuinely in love with Fabrício, she obviously fails to establish a satisfactory communication with him. The whole chapter describing this unhappy, but very funny love affair is a criticism against classicism and especially romanticism as two sets of formal mannerisms turned into objects destined exclusively for consumption.

  13. On the other hand, the island where most of the novel is set opens a space where the circulation of transatlantic literary paradigms can occur more freely—and where the monetary element is absent. It is a kind of isolated haven where these paradigms are detached from the social context in which they are usually articulated and are made to interact on an empty, unmarked stage, and where they are accessible without the kind of obstacles Fabrício has to buy his way through. The contours of the whole island remain vague: it is never named, nor is its precise location ever given in the book. It is probably a fictitious island, but it would more likely be located inside Guanabara Bay, on whose shores the city of Rio de Janeiro was built (the island is not far from the city; the characters reach it on a small boat). It is never really described, either; it apparently consists only of the house where the characters meet, placed exactly at its center and surrounded by trees and flowers, "always bright and lively thanks to the eternal spring in our good land of Santa Cruz" (71). "Land of Santa Cruz" was one of the first names given to Brazil by the Portuguese when they took possession of their new colony in the West. This very concise description evokes traditional images of the island as an earthly paradise—images that abounded in the reports of travelers who visited Brazil, or the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in America in general, soon after their discovery in the late fifteenth century.[6] The use of this image in conjunction with one of the first appellations given to Brazil evokes the very first stages of colonization, a time when what would later become the Brazilian territory was still conceived as a pristine land, ready to be taken, untouched by civilization and associated with a bountiful nature. The sparseness of description reinforces the identification of the island with the open, unmarked space that characterized Brazil in the imaginary of the first colonizers and reactivates this conception of the country in the present. As we will see ahead, this desired return to a point of origin has an important ideological role to play in the structure of A Moreninha.

  14. W. H. Auden describes the symbol of the island as being "like the city in that it is an enclosed place of safety and like the sea-desert in that it is a solitary or private place from which the general public are excluded and where the writ of the law does not run. The primary idea with which the garden-island image is associated is, therefore, neither justice nor chastity but innocence; it is the earthly paradise where there is no conflict between natural desire and moral duty" (28-29). The island in A Moreninha is also a place of transition between the city (for Auden, the place of necessity) and the sea (the place of possibility): it is close enough to the city to be considered part of the Court, but is separated from it by the sea—or rather by the bay, an inner sea. Crossing the waters to reach it is like crossing into another reality, or like sailing in a dream; it is a kind of suspension, of magical passage.

  15. When Augusto first sees Carolina, the moreninha, he finds her ugly and impertinent. She is very unruly, and even makes faces at him. But the problem is that she is very hard to define. If she seems ugly, that is because her beauty does not fit any preconceived type—she is neither romantic nor classic, and the narrator complains how difficult it is to paint her. The fact that she is not associated with any existing international literary paradigm marks her as original and places her outside the realm of culture, identifying her with nature—it is significant that, rather than receiving cultural "labels," like her "romantic" and "classical" cousins, she is identified by her skin color: a physical, natural trait. Her characterization, then, reproduces the old Rousseauvian dichotomy between culture as the domain of appearances and constraint, and nature as the domain of spontaneity, transparency and, ultimately, truthfulness—a dichotomy made popular by a veritable host of eighteenth-century British and French sentimental novels which still circulated in Brazil by the time A Moreninha was published.[7] Her misbehavior also puts her outside the roles usually assumed in the game of social interaction. She plays other kinds of games, more chaotic: those of a child. She sits in six different chairs in five minutes, playfully dismantles a bunch of roses, pours perfume in a guest's hat, pinches her brother, all in the first moments Augusto sees her (73). She refuses to hold any gentleman's arm when strolling in the garden, as the other girls do, because she would rather run around free (106). Her inability to stand still, her passion for movement, makes her an embodiment of circulation—but an aimless, spontaneous circulation, very different from that implied in Fabrício's and D. Joaninha's epistolary exchange, which was molded by literary/social conventions and was associated with monetary expenditure.

  16. On the one hand, then, we have an adult game, controlled by rules of conduct and locked in the circulation of forms, represented by the young people who flirt on the island, whose behavior is dictated by their literary affiliation and follows highly strict codes in its playfulness. On the other, we have children's play, which is described as amorphous and "invented at each moment" (113), and is associated with Carolina. She, in fact, actively opposes the codified rules of the game. When Augusto and his friends are playing a card game, Carolina bursts into the scene, throws a bunch of flowers on the table, steals one of the cards and completely disrupts the game (188-89).

  17. Although Carolina is consistently associated to spontaneity in this novel, we must be careful not to read her as representing a rupture in the circulation of transatlantic literary models or as an indictment against it. A Moreninha seems to carefully avoid ruptures of this kind, and Carolina can be seen as a re-articulation of the way foreign literary models are appropriated in this novel. For besides functioning as a positive allegorical figure for circulation, she herself is based on a literary model, that of the sentimental heroine. Her very spontaneity, her childlike innocence and her unruliness, which are supposed to make her unique, are traits she shares with many of her sentimental predecessors, such as Adèle in Mme. de Souza's Adèle de Sénange, Ernestine in Mme. Riccoboni's Histoire d`Ernestine and Camilla in Frances Burney's Camilla. These traits were also the basis for these characters' claims for originality in their respective novels, but although in the sentimental novel childlike spontaneity is an endearing or even desirable characteristic, it is also seen as a danger if not properly controlled, while in A Moreninha it is intensified and more freely embraced.

  18. The insistent positing of Carolina as a typical sentimental heroine through her embodiment of the culture versus nature dichotomy, her association with childlike innocence, and the stress given to her sensibility, elements that define Caroline as a character and which are marked with a positive valence in the novel, seems to offer her as a more satisfactory counterpoint to classicism and romanticism taken as mere formal mannerisms. If, at first, Carolina seems to evade the possibility of being inserted into a model, now it appears that she in fact represents the adoption of a model that is never as explicitly discussed in A Moreninha as classicism and romanticism: the sentimental novel that was so central in French and British literature from the second half of the eighteenth to the first decades of the nineteenth century. How far, then, does the adoption of this model entail the exclusion of other transatlantic models and bring to an end the circulation of literary forms that is such a driving force in the narrative of A Moreninha?

  19. The role of the sentimental paradigm is central in this novel not only in terms of characterization, but also of plot. It is Carolina who fixates Augusto's wandering desire when he visits the island, but this can only be achieved by a return to the past and by an even stronger association with childhood. For Augusto's notorious inconstancy was merely a screen, a way to avoid any serious commitment while remaining faithful to his one true love: a young girl (about seven years old) he had met on a beach years earlier when he was still an adolescent, and who he had never seen again. The growing attachment the two children felt while playing on the beach had been clinched and converted into a promise of marriage when they witnessed and were profoundly moved by a sentimental tableau of a poor fisherman dying in a miserable hut nearby. The consciousness of shared feelings cemented their love and the young girl has remained an ideal love object in Augusto's mind for the rest of his life—until he meets Carolina, who increasingly shows signs of being imbued with the same kind of sensibility. Augusto's "false" romanticism was, then, a cover for a "truer" romanticism: he was after all faithful to the kind of spiritual attachment that he explicitly associates to romantic love in his discussions with Fabrício. What finally opens the possibility of a "true" romanticism, as opposed to romanticism as a set of formal mannerisms, is the presence of this attachment with all its spiritual and idealistic overtones, and which is only achieved in this novel by invoking the sentimental tradition.

  20. The threat of unfaithfulness brought by Carolina's presence on the island (Augusto is torn for a long time between his increasing attachment to her and his desire to remain faithful to his young bride) is defused in the end by his discovery that Carolina was really the little girl on the beach. The idealized attachment between the two protagonists, then, is established when desire is partially de-sexualized by being fixated to childhood. This is already attempted by positing the fourteen-year old Carolina, with all her childlike innocence, as the main erotic object of the novel, and is finally achieved in the beach scene. For when Augusto met the young girl on the beach, he was already becoming aware of his own sexual desire—he already searched his "blasphemies" in the Latin dictionary, meaning, of course, Latin words with a sexual content (112)—and he promptly converts this budding sexual awareness into child's play, re-inscribing it in the realm of childhood innocence. This tendency is later reproduced in his courtship of Carolina, which involves playing with dolls and mock embroidery lessons.

  21. The possibility of a "true" romanticism associated with childhood and nature, where deeper attachments can be formed outside the domain of culture, does not constitute, however, an opposition to the circulation of forms. As we have already seen, the possibility of such attachments is firmly grounded on the tradition of the sentimental novel, which is also behind the way childhood innocence is articulated in A Moreninha in the first place. Terms like "true" or "false" are not the most adequate to describe the way this novel establishes a relationship with its models, since what seems to be central here is putting the available literary codes in circulation and selecting from them those aspects that can elicit certain affective and moral effects, and which will be activated more intensely, as opposed to those that remain dormant as purely formal possibilities, but which are never actually rejected and whose presence still retains the promise of a potential use. Hence, if the idealization of the amorous connection between Augusto and Carolina seems to point to a preference for the spirituality and sentimentality associated to romanticism in this novel, and to a tacit defeat of classicism in the literary dispute outlined in its first chapters, classical elements are still present in the construction of the idyllic atmosphere of the island.

  22. But even the attachment to romanticism and sentimentality remains somewhat qualified in A Moreninha. When Augusto and Carolina are temporarily separated by the intervention of Augusto's father, who is afraid the young man has been neglecting his studies, both lovers fall into a fit of melancholic sickness, which prompts the following remark from the narrator: "Our lovers had just reached the sentimental, and with their sentimentalism were spoiling the life of those who wished them well. Lovers are like children: first they amuse us with their antics, then annoy us with their crying" (256).

  23. At first, this seems to throw a jarring note into the narrative. The comment not only offers a satirical view of sentimentality, but also ridicules the image of love as child's play that is laboriously developed in the novel and that is so important for the effects it tries to achieve. An apparently contradictory position seems to have been reached between the wholehearted adoption of a foreign literary model and a reluctance to fully embrace it—a position reminiscent of the place in-between that Silviano Santiago describes as the one typically occupied by the Latin American writer, whose appropriation of foreign models is always accompanied by their criticism in a process closer to parody than to copy.[8] The tone of the narrator's comment on Augusto's and Carolina's love-sickness, however, is more good-humored than properly sarcastic, and it does not seem to properly constitute an attack on the sentimental model nor to question in any way its adoption in the rest of the novel.

  24. If we bear in mind the author's assertion in the preface that the novel was written as a pastime and therefore should not be taken too seriously, this comment can offer a glimpse of the kind of attitude that is the precondition for the textual enterprise carried out in A Moreninha. Poking fun at the sentimental model is less a criticism of this model than a refusal to take any literary model too seriously, even those that play a central role in this novel. It is a means to maintain a certain distance from it, while simultaneously stressing its visibility as a model, as something that the author can appropriate and use for his own ends – a move that marks the process of appropriation as conscious and deliberate. Moreover, in not taking his own models too seriously, the author, like his heroine, does not strictly adhere to the codified rules of the game and inscribes his exercise of appropriating European models—and of novel writing – under the heading of child's play. The eventual contradictions among different models, or even within a single model, can be conciliated or at least left suspended in this process of playful appropriation.

  25. The question of identification is, of course, very important in the mechanism of appropriation, where adopting a literary model is a form of insertion into the context of its original production. In absorbing models created in Europe, the nineteenth-century Brazilian novelist was asserting his right to belong to the same literary tradition as the "civilized" nations. In the case of Macedo, the circulation of models involves a knowledge of them as models, that is, as pre-existing paradigms that cannot be naïvely appropriated. This awareness, like the sexual awareness of the characters in A Moreninha, is, however, safely absorbed by the element of play, so that the whole process maintains an aspect of childlike innocence. The process of appropriation borrows from Europe a history for the genre of the novel, still virtually nonexistent in Brazil by the time A Moreninha was published, at the same time that it neutralizes this history in presenting the Brazilian novel as a child who has not yet fully absorbed its education and is still largely free from the dictates of any tradition.

  26. This neutralization of literary history is paralleled by an effacement of Brazilian history in A Moreninha. When any references are made to the Brazilian past in the novel, some three hundred years of colonization are skipped over and we return to an image of the country as a pristine natural garden. As we have already seen, the description of the island in A Moreninha associates it with the narratives of the first travelers who visited the country, identifying the Brazil of the narrative present to the newly discovered territory, still untouched by civilization, still unformed and still a land of limitless possibilities. This seems to reveal a desire for a return to a point of origin where the essence of Brazilian national identity is to be found—a desire shared by most romantic writers of nineteenth-century Brazil in their relentless search for what constitutes the spirit of the new nation (Süssekind 61). In the case of A Moreninha, however, this return to a point of origin seems less concerned with the rediscovery of an essence already formed in the past than with bringing this point of origin to the present and associating it with the innocence and openness of childhood—the endless becoming so stressed in the main character, and the limitless possibilities involved in child's play. But in A Moreninha, child's play also characterizes the exercise of novel writing itself, so that yet another identification is possible. The novel is also like a child in its formative stages; it plays with its models in its process of becoming, a process full of possibilities. The novel and the nation are imagined in the same way, and one mirrors the other—they are part of the same process of formation.

  27. In A Moreninha, the island is also an in-between space that offers a detachment from the demands of a commercial society without relinquishing its advantages: its cosmopolitanism and its modernity. It may be possible to read in it an idealized imaginary picture of the young Brazilian nation itself: placed on the margins of the sea of international commerce, retaining its childlike innocence and originality, but at the same time engaging in an intensive interaction with European civilization—especially by consuming its products. In this interaction, it becomes a part of this civilization (it knows its codes) while still remaining its more childlike and natural other. Its "civilized" knowledge, like the sexual awareness of the characters in A Moreninha, does not destroy its childlike innocence, neither does it force its insertion in the world of necessity dictated by the weight of a long historical tradition.

  28. Another example from this period of formation may show how some of these questions are pervasive in the nineteenth-century Brazilian novel. José de Alencar's Lucíola, published in 1862, is also structured on an intensive exercise of model appropriation, although here this process is not associated with child's play and follows a different dynamic. Nevertheless, a concern with childlike innocence, with the possibility of a return to a pristine point of origin, and a desire to escape from the determinations of history are also vividly present in this novel.

  29. Lucíola is to a great extent a re-writing of Dumas fils' La Dame aux camélias. It also tells the story of a courtesan, Lúcia, who finds redemption through love. In appropriating the premise, and some plot elements (the jealousy of the lover, the prostitute's contempt for her position and for her paying clients, for instance) of Dumas fils's novel, Alencar reveals a strong admiration for his model. Nevertheless, towards the middle of his narrative, he has his heroine read La Dame aux camélias, only to contemptuously reject it as a lie (Alencar 82).[9] This is a much stronger rejection of the model than Macedo's humorous jabs against sentimentality, and it marks the point from which the differences between Lucíola and Dumas fils' novel become more pronounced.

  30. Before exploring these differences, it is useful to point out that the explicit reference to a model is also present in La Dame aux camélias. The model in question is, of course, Manon Lescaut, which Marguerite Gautier also reads with some misgivings: "lorsqu'une femme aime, elle ne peut pas faire ce que faisait Manon" (Dumas fils 169). It is interesting that the point which marks the explicit departure from the model in Alencar is also a reference to this same model and reproduces it at another level: Lúcia is supposed to humble Marguerite, just as Marguerite was supposed to humble Manon. In inscribing his novel in this textual dynamic, Alencar connects it to the European novelistic tradition, which now supplies—as was the case in A Moreninha—a historical literary background for Lucíola. But, again as in Macedo's novel, it is a desire to transcend the constraints dictated by history that seems to motivate Alencar's work.

  31. Lúcia condemns La Dame aux camélias because Marguerite maintains a sexual relationship with Armand, offering him the same body that so many others had enjoyed: "Didn't this girl [Marguerite] feel, when she threw herself in her lover's arms, that it was the leftovers of corruption she was offering? Wasn't she afraid that her lips at that moment still throbbed with the kisses she had sold?" (82). This is, of course, essentially a moral objection which radicalizes the question of moral redemption already present in Dumas fils's novel, re-inscribing it in a much more absolute conflict between vice and virtue reminiscent of sentimental literature, whose rhetoric supplies the terms in which this conflict is developed in Alencar's novel. The absence of the kind of financial entanglements that made it so hard for Marguerite to fully relinquish her condition as a courtesan (the narrative of Lucíola stresses again and again that Lúcia was in fact quite rich and had no debts) is another element that firmly grounds Lúcia's story on a purely moral level.

  32. Lucíola, then, effaces several realistic traits present in A Dame aux camélias in favor of a more intensely spiritualistic and idealized stance. As opposed to Marguerite, Lúcia's redemption is in no way influenced by disease and remains connected to her desire to regain her virtue and to her own sensibility—to her characterization as a sentimental heroine, in short. Unlike Marguerite, she strives for—and will successfully attain—the kind of relationship with her lover associated in Brazilian romanticism (as we have already seen in A Moreninha) to platonic love, and which is fundamentally spiritual and sentimental. More importantly, because her conflict is essentially moral and free from any sort of objective determinism, she is able to effectively erase her own history by an act of will, and return to the original state of innocence that preceded her prostitution when she was only fourteen years old.

  33. This is marked in the novel by a literal return to Lúcia's point of origin, to the house where she spent her childhood, which she visits in the company of her lover. This house shares many of the traits of the island in A Moreninha, and is also a sort of in-between place by the sea, rurally idyllic but still located on the outskirts of the city. Like Lúcia's past, it remains intact and unchanged, ready to be retaken. There she can playfully run through the gardens like Carolina and cast the period she worked as a courtesan into oblivion: "I suppose I've slept through these last seven years and woke up today all of a sudden" (103). From that moment on, she will be like a "fifteen-year old girl, pure and innocent" (102).

  34. It is this return to the past, this complete effacement of personal history, that is barred to Marguerite. More than any moral flaw, it is the impossibility of a return to the tabula rasa of a pristine point of origin that Alencar seems to be rejecting in his model. But it still is in a dialogue with this model that he manages to make his point. It is only by explicitly bringing it into his own text that he can assert his own difference. On the other hand, this pristine state of childlike innocence, which is presented as natural and spontaneous, is only established in Lucíola, as much as in A Moreninha, by activating other European literary models, such as the sentimental novel and a romantic view of spirituality. If indeed these novels promote the creation of this image of childlike innocence and indeterminacy as what is specifically Brazilian about them, then their search for a literary and national identity remains relational. This image is connected to the search for an in-between state that, as far as the appropriation of models is concerned, offers less the possibility of a critical stance than of acting out the desire for a limitless inclusiveness, where different—and often contradictory—stances can coexist side by side, and where potentially any model or literary paradigm can be incorporated.

  35. The explicit way in which this inclusiveness is translated into children's play in A Moreninha points to a deliberateness in the process of appropriation, and an enjoyment of it, indicative that this place in-between where the novel is located—and which is metaphorically represented by the island as its setting, since it is placed in the bay where the most intense interaction between the Brazilian capital and the European nations occurred (a space we may safely call transatlantic)—is not a place occupied by necessity by the Latin American writer, as Silviano Santiago seems to imply, but rather a place actively created in works such as A Moreninha and occupied by choice. It is first and foremost an object of desire. In the case of the nineteenth-century Brazilian novelist, it seems to offer the opportunity of avoiding the commitment to a specific national or social project which would necessarily preclude other options. More importantly, it makes it possible to evade the relative determinism of the historical past and an established cultural tradition. The indeterminacy it supplies offers a much easier and open access to the future and modernity than the highly hierarchical structure of nineteenth-century Brazil, based on centuries of exploitation of slave labor, could offer. If the maintenance of this rigid hierarchical structure precludes an advancement towards modernity in European lines, this possibility remains open, paradoxically enough, in a return to a pristine past and the indeterminacy of a childlike tabula rasa, inconsequential and free of guilt.


1 See Marlyse Meyer, Folhetim: uma história (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1996).

2 Future references to this novel will appear between parentheses in the text. All quotations from Brazilian texts have been translated by me.

3 Moreninha is a difficult term to translate into English. It is the affectionate diminutive form of the adjective/noun morena, which has two meanings in Portuguese: it may simply refer to a dark-haired girl, or it may refer to a girl who also has dark, or tanned, skin, without being black. In opposition to her pale "romantic" cousin, Filipe's sister is described as having a "rosto moreno" (154)—a tanned, dark skinned face. The morena is a common Brazilian type, and we tend to picture her as the typical Brazilian woman.

4 One must only remember the fascination Filipe's cousins exert over his friends by the simple fact of their being identified with classicism and romanticism. Here is an account of Augusto's reaction to one of the cousins, when he first sees her on the island: "D. Joaninha's black locks and romantic face made a terrible breach in his heart" (73).

5 Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray's novel trilogy, Les Amours du chevalier de Faublas (1787-89), which dwells mainly on the sexual escapades of its hero—a sort of amiable young libertine—and on the corrupted morals of eighteenth-century France, would indeed be a peculiar reading matter for a nineteenth-century Brazilian girl of good standing. Its amoral tone throws a suspicious light on D. Joaninha's readings. Faublas's inclination towards cross-dressing, however, does raise the question of appearances and circulation of forms that is also an issue in A Moreninha. The kind of humor present in the Faublas novels—not to mention the fascination with the youth of their protagonist, whose budding (but intense) sexual experience still carries many elements of child's play—also bear some striking similarities to Macedo's novel, so it is hard to guess where his sympathy actually lies in this seeming condemnation of Faublas.

6 See Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Visão do paraíso (São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional/Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 1969) xii-xvii. The first accounts on the colonies often stress the fact that the Americas are in an eternal spring.

7 The contrast between culture and nature is a widespread concern of French sentimental novels, and it is also present in British novels. Examples range from Rousseau's own La Nouvelle Héloïse, published in 1761, to Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's Paul et Virginie, first published in 1788 as part of Etudes de la Nature.

8 See Silviano Santiago, "O entre-lugar do discurso latino-americano."

9 Future references to this novel will appear between parentheses in the text.

Works Cited

Alencar, José de. Lucíola. 16th ed. São Paulo: Editora Ática, 1992.

Auden, W. H. The Enchafèd Flood: or the Romantic Iconography of the Sea. London: Faber and Faber, 1951.

Carvalho, José Murilo de. A construção da ordem: a elite política imperial. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Campus, 1980.

Cândido, Antônio. Formação da literatura brasileira, vol. 2 (1836-1880). 6th ed. São Paulo: Livraria Martins Ediotra, 1981.

Dumas, Alexandre, fils. La Dame aux camélias. Paris: Pocket, 1998.

Holanda, Sérgio Buarque de. Visão do paraíso. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional/Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 1969.

Macedo, Joaquim Manuel de. A Moreninha. Rio de Janeiro: Lacerda Editores, 1997.

Meyer, Marlyse. Folhetim: uma história. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1996.

Sant'Anna, Affonso Romano de. "A Moreninha," Análise estrutural de romances brasileiros. Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, 1979.

Santiago, Silviano. "O entre-lugar do discurso latino-americano." Uma literatura nos trópicos: ensaios sobre dependência cultural. São Paulo: Editora Perspectiva, 1978.

Süssekind, Flora. O Brasil não é longe daqui: o narrador, a viagem. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1990.