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Literature / Dom Casmurro

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Original cover of the 1900 version.

Everything comes to an end, reader. It is an old truism to which may be added that not everything that lasts, lasts for long. This latter part is not readily admitted; on the contrary the idea that an air castle lasts longer than the very air of which it is made is hard to get out of a person's head, and this is fortunate, otherwise the custom of making those almost eternal constructions might be lost.
Dom Casmurro, Chapter CXVIII

Published in 1899, hailed by critics as one of Machado de Assis' masterpieces, and still taught at most brazillian schools, Dom Casmurro is written as a memoir where the narrator and main character, Bentinho (or Dr. Bento as the story progresses), recounts the story of his life and tries to convince the reader about the supposed betrayal of his wife, Capitu, and his best friend, Escobar. Its witty, sarcastic humor, realist style and ambiguity over whether or not the betrayal did happen contribute to the still-ongoing popularity of the book.


Dom Casmurro contains examples of:

  • Apple of Discord: Escobar eventually becomes this to Bentinho and Capitu.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The main character routinely speaks to the reader.
  • Character Title
  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: The main character, since the beginning.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: The whole point of the story.
  • Never My Fault: The author tries to blame everyone else for his miserable life, but whether or not this is true is controversial to say the least.
  • Shout-Out: The main character watches Othello in the theater.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The main character is an archetypal example: for a long time it was considered that the narrator was simply and clearly cheated on by his wife, and that he himself as a character was completely just in his actions. Only long after his death it has become common knowledge (among professional critics at least) that the fact is, not only is Dr. Bento in possession of a failing memory (he commits many continuity errors, AND lets it slip a few times as he complains about his memory), but is also a lawyer (no further explanation needed, really... but) and he's paranoid. Those all add up for a really unreliable narrator who struggles to remember simple facts, sees things that aren't really there AND wants the reader's approval.


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