Dom Casmurro is a Brazilian novel that was written by Machado De Assis. It was published in 1899. The novel has used a first-person narrative style where an elderly Bento Santiago tells the story. Bento narrates a story that tells the reader about his early childhood and his adulthood.
In the narration, Bento captures the happy moments he had as a child and the sad moments he later had in his life. Bento tells the reader about his childhood lover, Capitu. They had a perfect love for each other in their childhood years. As Bento narrates his story, he adopts a humorous tone that is deceptive. This deceptive tone reveals a darker story that the narrator does not want to tell. For instance, he says, “To make it appear that she was my only love.” (De Assis 86). He clearly lies because we understand that he loved Capitu so much that he decided to marry her.
He is an unreliable narrator in the sense that he gives flimsy reasons to justify his suspicion that his wife Capitu cheated on him with his best friend and gave birth to a son. For instance, he says,
“How many wicked intentions climb aboard a pure and innocent phrase after it is already on its way? It is enough to make one suspect that lying is, many a time, as involuntary as breathing…but contradictions are of this world.” (De Assis 86).
As he grew up, the happiness he had as an adolescent turns into a complicated life that is filled with drama and tragedy. The reader gets to understand the narrator as a person suffering because of his own jealousy. He does not readily tell the reader of his self-destruction but does so through a dramatic narration. For instance, he says,
“…the air of life. Life is beautiful that the idea of death must be born before it can be realized.” (De Assis 242).
The first person narration in the novel influences the development of the plot because it creates the main themes in the story, which are jealousy and betrayal. It is through the narrator that the reader understands the story as a dramatic tragedy (Swanson 17).
In conclusion, Machado De Assis developed a story that captivates the reader through first-person narration. The unreliable narrator makes the story interesting in the sense that he enables the reader to know certain details about him in an indirect manner. For instance, the reader gets to know that the narrator caused his own tragedy because of jealousy.
De Assis, Machado. Dom Casmurro: a novel. California: University of California Press, 1966.
Swanson, Philip. Latin American fiction: a short introduction. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.