24 de ago. de 2022

‘Dom Casmurro’ – Summary of the work of Machado de Assis


Bento Santiago is willing to narrate the story of his life. This is a man in his 60s, who, supposedly, would have a lot to tell. However, it is immediately evident that his interest in his own biography has a very focused focus: his relationship with the young Capitu, the neighbor who would become the great love of his life. A fascinating character, Capitu has an extraordinary power of seduction, manifested in her “oblique and dissimulated gypsy eyes”, capable of attracting like the undertow of the sea.

Therefore, the space dedicated to childhood is insignificant, as is the one that deals more directly with old age. The time frames of the narrative and the author's scope of interest are limited by the period that goes from adolescence, when his love relationship begins, to adulthood, marked by the betrayal of his beloved.

A rich young man, Bento lives under the protection of his mother, the widow D. Glória, who still maintains a group of relatives under her dependence: his brother Cosme, his cousin Justina and the aggregate José Dias. It is in this house of old widowers that Bento grows up. After the loss of her first child, D. Glória swore that her second would be a priest. Having been widowed when her son was still a child, the oath turned into anguish and a harbinger of separation from the only child. The courtship with Capitu reinforces the boy's lack of vocation, but he ends up obeying his mother's desire and enters a seminary.

At the seminary, Bento and Escobar become best friends. Together, the youth manage to convince their parents to withdraw them from the seminary. With that, Bento graduates in law and marries Capitu, while her best friend, Sancha, ends up becoming Escobar's wife. Bento's happiness is completed with the birth of Ezequiel, his son, who comes to keep Capituzinha, the daughter of the friend, company.

However, a fatality changes the course of the group of friends: Escobar drowns. During the wake, Bento sees signs of adultery in his wife's behavior that he had not suspected until then.

From that moment on, other clues join the first. The biggest one is the great similarity that Bento sees between his son and his dead friend. Having obtained this living proof of the betrayal, he separates and sends Capitu and Ezequiel to Europe. From then until old age, Bento lived in a state of relative seclusion, which gave rise to his nickname: Dom Casmurro, which means introspective.

It so happens that the expression has another meaning, which the narrator hides from the unsuspecting reader: stubborn. And if the first definition shows the narrator's behavior, the latter reveals the strongest trait of his personality: the insistence on defending the point of view according to which he was betrayed, even without the presentation of indisputable evidence.


About the author

Machado de Assis managed as few others to unearth the deepest human meaning from the political events of his time. Thus, the apparently peaceful environment of Brazilian institutional life in the second half of the 19th century hid the violence of slavery and the system of exchange of favors that guided the relationship between rich and poor. When talking about Brazil, Machado laid bare the human being in its moral misery. And he built the most brilliant work of our literature.

Importance of the book

The theme of betrayal, present in Dom Casmurro, is instigating in itself. Betrayal leads the human being to the limits of rationality and to the brink of losing reason. However, the fundamental feature of the work is the questioning of truth, understood as one of the buildings of realism to which the writer himself belonged. The intensity of this dialogue – with time, with human emotions and with art – makes Dom Casmurro a novel of always fruitful re-readings.

The most evident marks of the Machadian style are present in the book: the digression (suspension of the narrative for the development of parallel reflections), the metalanguage (discourse on art itself) and the dialogue with the reader, almost always conducted with fine irony.

Historical period

Brazil in the second half of the 19th century was an economy in formation and transformation. The establishment of relatively modern capitalist bases coexisted, and would continue to coexist for a long time, with the persistence of conservative habits and thoughts.

Dom Casmurro: A Novel Paperback – 15 September 2009

English Edition by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis 

(Author), Machado de Assis (Author)

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Farrar Straus Giroux; Reprint edition (15 September 2009)

Language ‏ : ‎ English

Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages

Summary by

Sidney Matias

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