Dr. Leonor Simas-Almeida is a Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University form where she received an M.A (1999) and a PhD (2004) in Comparative Literature. She has been teaching courses in Portuguese language, culture and literature and in Lusophone African Literature at the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies.
The death of the female protagonist at the end of this novel by Eça de Queiroz is, arguably, an event for which the reader starts to be prepared from the beginning of the narrative. It is not, however, something easily comprehensible in the case of a twenty-five years old, healthy and happy woman at the time we make her acquaintance.
Luiza’s character incarnates the bourgeois woman of her era and social milieu, thoroughly unprepared to resist the advances of her seducer, a male predator who leads her to commit adultery. She is then made to suffer the consequences of her sexual transgression. Long psychological misery followed by death are her punishment.
The central argument I make is that, though implausible for the above-mentioned reasons, this heroine’s demise is constructed as inescapable due to the cautionary features of her story. The readers are expected to see her as a victim of others and of her society, even more, or rather, much more than of her own shortcomings. They are supposed to pity her but also, and mainly, to learn a lesson that she could not learn.
In this context, the reader’s emotions are manipulated in very specific ways: compassion is supposed to beelicited, along with the desire to save a doomed heroine, but one is also encouraged to accept her death as an unavoidable fate.