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Brazil - Not Just a War of its Own

If an educated history professor with knowledge of South America were asked to explain Brazil in a single sentence, something along the lines of "Brazil is a country of hidden turmoil, poverty, crime, drugs, promiscuity, and racial conflicts yet some find it to be beautiful due to its diverse background," would be relevant to the stereotype of the third world country (The Economist). Some say Brazil is a beautiful country due to its white beaches and clear water, but if one looks deep enough into the cities, they will see the truth that lies in the shantytowns of Brazil. John Updike, a talented American author, paints a picture of how Brazil fits the stereotype of a third world country. In his hit book, Brazil, Updike uses Rio de Janeiro as a playground, where young Tristгo meets Isabel on the Copacabana beach. Isabel and Tristгo are from different social classes and different races that symbolize Brazil in general, due to the mixture of backgrounds. In just the first three chapters, it is simple to notice that Updike is attempting to portray Brazilian life through these two separate entities and express how just two lives can characterize Brazil's conflicting issues. Updike is also proving that Brazil fits with any other country, where people have to make decisions of the own regardless of the country's standard.

Young Tristгo is a wreck. If one could imagine a hoodlum brought up in a dingy slum, who turns out on the streets thieving to make a living, Tristгo would come to mind. The problem begins with Tristгo's mother. His mother is nothing more than a whore; one who sleeps with men not for the money, but for the joy of sex. She has conceived at least two children, and these children will never have an idea of who their father's are, because of her carelessness. Due to the color of their skin, the only thing they may know of their father is that they are of a different race: Tristгo mostly African, and Euclides partly Indian. Not only does she prostitute herself, but she drinks herself away to the point of no return. She does not care for her children, so they have had to raise themselves. Tristгo's half-brother Euclides follows the footsteps of his brother. To survive, Tristгo rummages the streets of Rio day and night, robbing people of their possessions, hoping to hit the jackpot one day. He struts himself in worn clothes, faded by the sun, and walks in torn rubber sandals. It is obvious that both Tristгo and Euclides fall into the lower class filth that Brazil should be ashamed of. There is not much help for Tristгo. Once you join the life of mischief, it never ends. One day on the Copacabana beach, Tristгo spots a "pale girl in a two-piece bathing suit" that will soon affect his life.

This "pale girl" on the other hand is on the "well-off" side. Isabel is a beautiful female who ignores the fact that Tristгo is another race and poor. He knows she is far too beautiful for him, and out of range, but makes his decision to lure her in. Tristгo gives Isabel a stolen ring, and regardless of the fact that Isabel knows the ring is "hot", she keeps it anyway. Unlike Tristгo and Euclides, Isabel attends Catholic school where she pays more attention to the nun's "naughtiness" than the religion schooling. Isabel is nice enough to allow Tristгo to go back to her apartment, even though she sees he is not her type and could possibly rob her. The apartment she lives in is entirely expensive, and Tristгo knows the property is worth a definite value; just one item could keep him off the streets for probably a month. She lives with her uncle, because her father is a political figure in another country. Even though Isabel and Tristгo come from opposite backgrounds, she is attracted to him, in a lustful fashion, which proves that social/racial conflict does not lie in every individual in Brazil, because the individuals have decided to look past the conflict.

Just when Isabel and Tristгo have known each other for less than a day, the heat becomes a bit hotter. Isabel decides to lose her virginity to Tristгo, just as if she has picked a random person to sleep with. It really is not Tristгo's idea to have sex, but Isabel wants to get it over with, she does not want to be a child anymore. In America, mostly the men are the promiscuous type, yet Isabel exceeds the bounds and proves that women can also be a rebel without a cause. More often in our society, we see women getting pregnant at younger ages. We are not talking fifteen or sixteen, but eleven or so. It seems normal now that teenagers are having sex at younger ages, yet Updike makes the scene between two mere adults seem as if it were blasphemous because of the social status difference. Women in Brazil are seen as promiscuous because they don't have to work since most of the men support them and are free to sleep with whom they want (Goncalves de Freitas and Fernandes de Oliveira and Rega). Isabel may be Catholic, but she is not waiting for marriage. In America, most Catholics who rebel in this fashion will be shunned from their church and their family would turn against them, yet in Brazil, they may be more carefree.

Isabel hopes to keep her little secret from her uncle; he would demand that she be with a man of politics. In the third chapter, Isabel's uncle finds out what is going on between the two, and is furious. It is not the fact that he does not approve of a boyfriend, but it is the social status of Tristгo. Even though Rio de Janeiro is a diverse country, there are still social class problems due to the high class belief that they are better than others, and believe they deserve better than majority (Schwartzman). Not only does this occur in Brazil, but also in every state in America, the higher class wants to be with the high class and shun the lower class. Even in my hometown, it is unreal to see a rich person with a poor person. Regardless of the fact that Tristгo is of another race, which would be a conflict mostly in America due to our racial boundaries, her uncle looks at the point of where and how Tristгo would provide for his niece and doesn't see what is best for her. Growing up with a rich life and switching to a life of barely anything will ruin the girl's self-esteem. In spite of of what her uncle says, she decides to be with Tristгo that irks her uncle. Not only does Isabel have a problem with her family's decision on her life, but most teenagers or even adults of her age believe that parents are out to get their children. Isabel is a rebel without a cause, indeed. She plans to do as she wishes, which isn't seen often with females in Brazil. Females tied down with school have a life path already



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