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Depictions Of Female Characters : Amado And The Flowers, Beautiful And Fragrant, But Silent Beings

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As is characteristic of Amado, depictions of female characters start with a focus on their physicality to then move toward their inner qualities. Amado introduces the secretive Malvina in the second chapter of the novel and describes her with a focus on her physical attractiveness. As Malvina is tending her garden, the narrator tells us that she “knelt among the flowers (which she excelled in beauty)” (98). Amado compares Malvina to the flowers, beautiful and fragrant, but silent beings. At a first glance, it may appear that Malvina, like those flowers, will be limited to the role of a pretty object. However, Amado will later on give Malvina more depth. Amado’s strategy in depicting female characters first with their bodies to then…show more content…
Malvina will not speak for another two subsections of the novel and only to ask Mundinho Falcão if he wrote poetry (107), which shows us two aspects of her character: at the one hand, she appears as a literary person, cultured and lettered. On the other hand, her interest in poetry may evince her romantic side and hint that Malvina is interested in a romantic relationship with Mundinho. This idea is reinforced by Amado’s focus in describing Malvina’s eyes and body language: “At the approach of the exporter, Malvina’s eyes brightened; she smiled and straightened her dress” (107). In Embodied Cognitive Science, “the look is often expressive of the attitude of the looker towards the ‘lookee’ ” (Palmer 37). The sparkles in her eyes, smile and her attempt to look neater indicate Malvina’s interest in Mundinho. Though readers can interpret Malvina’s actions, Josué and Mundinho do not seem to notice her interest in the cacao exporter. Amado continues describing their encounter, as Malvina’s physical beauty is reinforced by Mundinho, who seems to be enchanted by the girl’s mysterious eyes. Mundinho is intrigued by the fact that he cannot read what is going on in Malvina’s mind, that is, his Theory of Mind fails him. Lisa Zunshine argues that “because the body is the text that we read throughout our evolution as a social species, we are now stuck with cognitive adaptations that forcefully focus our attention on that particular text” (67). For Zunshine, we cannot avoid the
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