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YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY A FEMININE APPROACH TO FAVOUR IN TWO NOVELS BY MACHADO DE ASSIS JULEE TATE IN Machado de Assis’s short story, “Teoria do medalhão,” a father explains to his son, on the occasion of his twenty-first birthday, how to become a medalhão – a title once used to refer to a person of great importance who wields influence. In the course of the story it becomes clear that the father is indifferent to his son’s choice of profession. Instead , his primary concern and advice is that his son achieves success in any reputable field by securing the favour of those that have already earned their high position and reputation. In establishing this model of the medalhão, Machado introduces the reader to a character-type, present in much of his work, that relies upon the favour of others in order to obtain social, political, professional, or financial advantages. The typically wealthy and powerful bestower of favour is often motivated by acts of flattery and deception on the part of the aspiring medalhão, who often appears to be conferring some form of favour of their own. In “Teoria do medalhão,” the lesson that the father teaches is that his son should achieve social, political, professional, and/or financial success by procuring the favour of those that have already done so. Missing from “Teoria do medalhão” is instruction for Machadean female characters who aspire to the advantages made possible by the favour of wealthy and powerful benefactors. As a result of societal limitations placed upon them, these nineteenth and early twentieth century women characters do not have access to the appearance of power and success through careers or politics, as men do. As a consequence, female characters must use the tools available to them in order to procure favour while seemingly bestowing it. This investigation proposes that beauty and charm are tools that are used strategically by Machadean YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY 341 women characters to secure positions of power and influence, or merely to achieve the appearance of such. A close reading of two of Machado de Assis’s novels, Dom Casmurro and Quincas Borba, supports this assertion by revealing their female protagonists to be adept at both bestowing and garnering favour. In his critical essay, “Misplaced Ideas,” Roberto Schwarz declares “favour” in Brazilian society to be a “quasi-universal social mediation” resulting from a heritage of slavery (22). Schwarz proposes that prior to and after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, there existed a class of free men who in reality were not free, but dependent upon the favour of the upper class. These free, yet dependent, individuals were known as agregados . According to Schwarz the relationship between the agregado and the elite reflected the relationship between all Brazilians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: The field of ideological life is formed by these two classes, and it is governed, therefore, by this relationship. Thus, under a thousand forms and names, favour formed and flavoured national life, excepting always the basic productive relationship which was secured by force. Favour was present everywhere, combining itself with more or less ease to administration , politics, industry, commerce, the life of the city, the court, and so on . . . (22) Although it is implied in Schwarz’s statement, “Favour was present everywhere,” the critic excludes from his investigation the mention or examination of the presence of this relationship of dependence and favour in gender relations. Instead, he seems primarily concerned with the presence of favour as a mediation device between social classes that extends itself to political and professional spheres. In his study, “Dependents Play Chess,” Sidney Chalhoub extends the ideology of dependence and favour to include women: In the world as construed by such ideology, a world dreamed of, the worth of any one individual is measured by the web of personal relations to which he or she manages to belong. There is no social place outside the formally and customarily instituted forms of hierarchy, authority, and dependence. (53, bold mine) Because she was not permitted entrance into the work force, politics, business, or other fields exclusive to men, the middle to upper-class Brazilian woman of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-7599
Print ISSN
0035-7995
Pages
pp. 341-349
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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