O vale de paixão - Lídia Jorge

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  • Created by: Phoebe
  • Created on: 05-06-16 09:47

Discuss the revisiting of the past in O vale da pa

  • Context: Portugal changed massively over the course of the 20th century
  • Novel takes place over 50 years, from dictatorship to present day
  • Catholic values have strong influence

1. Sex and gender roles

  • Maria Ema becomes pregnant, must marry immediately, her life is ruined (Walter's not)
  • Daughter is not named, she represents all illegitimate daughters
  • Not allowed to ask about her father
  • Enters in a relationship with an older man - father issues

2. Education and work

  • Walter is youngest - has more free education that the others - free thinker - problems
  • Doesn't have the same attitude to manual labour - creative types - birds

3. Migration

  • All the brothers (save Custodio) leave and do not return - they find modern jobs and do not honour their family ties as Francisco expects them to
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In what ways is the house a central motif in O val

  • Salazar's dictatorship placed an emphasis on family values. The town the house is set in is not real, but represents provincial, traditional Portugal
  • Sao Sebastian de Valmares: Val-mar (inland-sea) Algarve has coastal reigions as well as plain lands. Don Sebastian represents in Portuguese history/mythology died in battle ‘the king that never returned’ without heirs in 1578 – an important time in history as 1580 signifies their surrendering to Spain. the myth was that he would return one day on a misty dawn, and we had to passively wait – similar to that of the daughter and the father

1. House as a prison 

  • Walter trapped there as a free spirit, escapes
  • Maria Ema trapped there by patriarchal values - cannot escape - becomes depressed
  • Custodio trapped there through familial duty
  • Daughter trapped there, oppressed, ignored, nameless

2. House reclaimed

  • When Francisco dies, Custodio is a more gentle patriarch
  • Daughter is allowed boyfriend to sleep over - modern values
  • Daughter buries manta in the garden, and is allowed to choose whether she returns
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To what extent is OVDP a novel about female voicel

Context: Women's rights in Portugal not great - stigma around pre-marital sex and single mothers. Francisco is representative of Salazar in his oppression of women


  • Nameless: defined as 'filha' or 'sobrinha' interchangeably
  • Never allowed to ask about her father - must play along in the charade
  • No one on the house talks to her - escapes through books

Maria Ema:

  • Gets no choice in her fate - trapped into a marriage with a man she does not love
  • Becomes depressed as a consequence and barely speaks
  • Cannot have loving relationship with her daughter

Male voicelessness?

  • Walter cannot express himself through words - must draw instead
  • Custodio never complains or voices his opinion
  • Adelina only gets a voice by becoming Francisco's mouthpiece
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Plot summary

  • The setting of this extraordinary novel is an old farmhouse in Portugal - a house far enough from the Atlantic not to hear the breaking waves during a storm but near enough for the walls to be corroded by the salt in the air.
  • With most members of her large family having left the hardship of life in this landscape of sand and stone for jobs in faraway places, a young woman struggles to piece together her past from the many and differing stories she is told.
  • Left behind by a free-spirited, feckless father, a seducer with a talent for drawing, she is raised by her uncle who has married her mother.
  • The only memories of her father's one brief visit are the echoes of his footsteps on the stairs leading to her room.
  • The only signs of him are letters from the widest reaches of the world- letters accompanied by brilliantly coloured drawings of exotic birds: the cuckoo from India, the ibis from Mozambique, the goose from Labrador, the hummingbird from the West Indies.
  • The daughter longs for her father and, as she grows up, she is determined to find him and uncover the truth.
  • Beautifully written and imagined, this strikingly lyrical novel evokes the atmosphere of a rural community in a changing world and explores the timeless themes of family, independence, and the often painful experience of emigration.
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  • The novel opens in the present, on the day the nameless narrator receives the manta
  • It contains his legacy, an old army blanket upon which he was rumored to have seduced girls
  • The narrative quickly shifts to random flashbacks that the reader must decipher.
  • Walter flees to India with the army as soon as he learns that Maria Ema is pregnant 
  • In order to save the family from disgrace, the furious patriarch orders Walter’s older brother, Custodio, to marry Maria Ema.
  • However, the family refuses to acknowledge the child as Walter’s daughter; she is always referred to as Walter’s niece, a pretense she is soon aware of.
  • The child grows up in a loveless household, brightened only by her father’s letters and his paintings of birds from all over the world, sent to Custodio but are really meant for Maria Ema.
  • The mother discards them; the daughter treasures them.
  • Two visits from Walter are repeatedly mentioned—the first in 1951, when he briefly returns from India; the second in 1963, when he returns to the family as a successful, even wealthy man who has established himself in Ontario.
  • These crucial visits provide the girl’s only direct contact with her father. Eventually she rebels against his repressive family and his desertion of her.
  • The unsung hero of this novel is the aptly named Custodio, the patient, self-effacing guardian of a disintegrating family. 
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Remembering differently

'Walter is both perpetrator and victim in the same measure, even if differently, as Maria Ema or his brother, all of them incapable of escaping the traps laid for them by convention and tradition. The daughter might be more visibly self-destrucive in her active search for an identity that is always already impossibly, but the others are as wrecked as she is in their acquiescence to the roles that are expected of them' (Paulo de Medeiros)

'Jorge's novels are anti-nostalgic, and as such always intervene decisively in the politics of a Portugual, even a Europe, that still harkens back to its glorious days of power instead of trying to imagine a future that might offer alternatives to current desolation...remembering is a political and ethical act' (Paulo de Medeiros)

'Remembering is never a quiet act of introspection or retrospection. It is a painful remembering, a putting together of the dismembered past to make sense of the trauma of the present' (Bhabha)

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Primeira República (1910-1926)

Ditadura Militar (1926-1932)

Estado Nove: period of dictatorship by Salazar/Caetano (1933-1974)

Based on ideology of 'Deus, Pátria, Família'

25th April 1974-present day: post revolutionary period

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Timeline in novel

  • 1889: Birth of Salazar//Birth of Francisco Dias (1890s)
  • 1910: End of monarchy//Birth of Custodio Dias
  • 1926: Salazar appointed finance minister//Birth of Walter Dias
  • 1933: Estado Novo Constitution//Death of Joaquina Gloria
  • 1946: Birth of Lidia Jorge//Maria Ema's pregnancy revealed
  • 1947: Walter Dias in Goa//Birth of narrator
  • 1951: Portuguese colonies renamed as overseas provinces//First return of Walter
  • 1974: 25th April revolution
  • 1976: New Portuguese constitution enshrining equality of women//Narrator buys car (Dyane)
  • 1980: Lidia Jorge's first novel//Death of Francisco, Narrator visits father in Argentina
  • 1998: Publication of O Vale da Paixão//arrival of blanket in Valmares
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Women's writing

'Re-vision - the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction - is more us more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves. And this drive to self-knowledge, for woman, is more than a search for identity: it is part of her refusal of the self-destructiveness of male dominated society' (Adrienne Rich)

'the woman's novel asks questions, poses riddles, cries out for restitution, but the synthesis occurs in the mind of the reader, who, having participated in the narrative reenactment, must put its message into effect of her own life' (Annis Pratt)

'O Vale da Paixão' dramatises that act of resistance, staging the psychic as well as spatio-temporal wanderings of the paternal-national metaphor...by recovering the paternal heritage while subverting precisely the symbolic Law of the Father, Lídia Jorge illuminates the intersections between sex and gender, empire and nation...and finally, between representation and the regimes of violence that it serves, namely, the identity predicated in the patriarchal principle of genealogy' (Ana Paula Ferreira)

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Mourning and Melancholia

  • Child: transitional objects (the gun/uniform)
  • Attachment theory
  • Adolescent girl 'quem estava a mais era eu'
  • Adult woman 'três episodios escritos, para lhe entregar em vez do revolver'

The Five Stages of Grief (Elizabeth Kübler-Ross)

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
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The Portuguese Experience in the 20th century

  • Illegitimate births: 12% in early 20th century
  • High illiteracy rates (61.8% in 1930) Link to peasants signing the petition with their thumb
  • Active population: 55% working in agriculture in 1930, 51% in 1950
  • After the 1950s, Portugal experienced a significant drop in the number of people working in agriculture as a consequence of the emigration of rural labourers
  • Migration: Walter, Joaquim, Manuel, Luís, Inácio, João (+ their wives), Adelina and husband Fernandes all migrate, only Custodio stays
  • Identity is not something that is fixed but something that is constructed over time
  • Applies to the collective history of the Portuguese nation and its self-image
  • Stigma attached to illegitimacy in a predominately Catholic country was extremely high
  • No longer a stigma when the novel was publishedMarked trend towards migration in the 50s
  • Partilhas – dividing up the land between people – Francisco tries to lure his sons back
  • Walter is an incorrigible womanizer – the ghost is the question of how many illegitimate children he has fathered around the world
  • Appeals back to a very rigid mindset – where illegitimacy is black and white
  • Communication within the family is flawed – brothers use Walter as a pawn, don’t communicate with the father, there is no transparency – they left like frightened rabbits
  • C = Angellike figure with protective (not traditionally masculine) role (emasculated)
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Lecture notes

  • “the writer as I-witness” (Atwood) – ideas of subjectivity
  • A Licao de Salazar encodes family values. Clause in law=women exempt from being equal.
  • Law of the Father:paternal figure returns to his house in order to protect and serve
  • The novel centres 100 small sections on nameless narrator who has dual genealogy with two paternal figures: Custodio and Walter. On one level, the book surrounds the relationship of the absentee father – a common occurrence due to mass migration, and economic hardship in 1950/60s. Also about colonial war as many also left for military reasons.
  • Moral code of dictatorship= Custodio marrying Maria in order to save the honour of the family.
  • Her real father returns twice, described in the novel as “revenant” (French for ghost, also gives idea of returning). Returns from Goa in 1951 when the daughter is 3 and then again in 1963 when she is 15 – a crucially formative age as divided in adolescence/adulthood. Meet again in Argentina in 1983, when she is about 35, a fully grown woman. The last resurfacing occurs at an unspecified time which brings the narrative up to the present (definitely post dictatorship), he sends her his soldier’s blanket (opening of the book).
  • Jorge’s working title was “Diante da Manta do Soldado” (Before the soldier’s blanket), however “soldier” would have strong association with colonial war, something which she wasn’t trying to establish. However, colonial war remains a haunting theme.
  • “Paixão” ambiguous as alludes to both love and suffering, daughter undergoes both
  • “Deixo à minha sobrinha” – doesn’t refer to her as she is, rather her official title.
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Lecture notes (2)

  • Feminist 1970s: “the personal is political”. The novel is extremely anti-nostalgic: reliving the past is not succumbing to the past, rather critically examining it as to free yourself 
  • Juxtaposition between innocence of child and wisdom of adult: the act of bearing witness. The book has an autobiographical element: Jorge’s father was a migrant in Latin America.
  • Many elements and important dates in novel correspond to Salazar history. Francisco Dias is a typical partriachal figure, approximated to the figure of Salazar. We can estimate they were born at the same time, belong to the same generation
  • All Dias sons migrate abroad for economic reasons in the late 1950s. Half the population at this time worked in agriculture. “agricultura subistencia” – small plots as a means for a living. An exceedingly hard life. The only one that remains is the official father Custodio. It is implies that he is physically disabled – this prevents him from migrating? The novel explores the fragmentation of the family due to migration/changing times
  • Surprising that no references to vinticinco de abril – rural, no exposure, or is the daughter’s liberation more important than the country’s? Her liberation is sexual/personal – she purchases a car (her father owned an impressive one) and drives to Argentina.
  • The household is made up out of six sons/three daughters in law and one daughter. There are six children. Francisco therefore had eight children – typical Roman Catholic family. A female servant, her family and five or six manual labourers. Well off family
  • Salazar was frugal with his money - similar to Francisco not running water in his house
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Lecture notes (3)

  • Novel is written from a retrospective and mature position
  • There is a trajectory of the unnamed narrator from childhood to present
  • Open-end conclusion
  • Stages in her life through childhood, adolescence and adulthood
  • Mature woman: the entire novel is triggered by the arrival of the soldier’s blanket
  • Delayed reaction to father’s death, mourning process is triggered by the blanket
  • Obsessive recollection and severing attachment
  • “Labour of memory” – a process of hard work (“trabalho de luto”)
  • Only is with her father in 1951 and 1963
  • 1951 recollection: they escape the household and take a photo together
  • Photo becomes one of the few objects that accompanies the daughter as she grows up
  • Other objects of Walter’s are important, i.e. his soldier’s outfit
  • Embodiment of Walter with a ghostly outline – becomes mothridden and is buried in the garden – foreshadows the blanket burial at the end of the novel
  • Third object that shapes her childhood: Walter’s gun, which she hides beneath her mattress  
  • Is disposed of once she embarks on a relationship with an older man – he throws it into the sea, replacing the presence of an absent father
  • When she meets Walter in Argentina, she wants to ask him what the birds signify but doesn’t 
  • She cannot accept that her father hasn’t given her anything – denial
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  • describes herself as an old woman
  • finds comfort in literature – the Iliad, replaces interaction with others
  • end of passage: plunged into literary text and relates it to her experience
  • everything comes from a wound and goes back to the original wound
  • Foreshadows the last dawn we witness in the novel – the dawn at the time of the burial
  • Father offered to take her back to Canada with him – she turned it down”
  • You can’t change yourself by changing places - No correlation between location and identity
  • 1963: watershed moment – mother has lost her lover for good
  • Unspoken tension – does she have an affair with Walter or not?
  • Maria Ema’s name is important – relates to Madame Bovary (Emma)
  • Emma Bovary commits suicide –  Maria Ema is on the brink of committing suicide
  • After Walter leaves, Maria Ema sinks into depression/melancholia
  • According to Freud, this is a cycle of mourning in which you cannot reach acceptance
  • Only brought out of depression by a maternal urge to protect her daughter 
  • She hides herself in the house, in a room at the top, Jorge’s way of winking at the reader with a reference to Virginia Woolf and A Room of One’s Own – she gets a car
  • Two movements: trying to escape in a car – harking back to the charrete, and hiding away in her room, preserving her mental freedom
  • Citroen Dyane – Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt = freedom
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Last few chapters

  • Walter is a Don Juan figure – daughter tries to deconstruct this
  • Tries to analyse him in a very clinical and objective way
  • Vocab is to do with words which are scientific
  • Wants to capture him, go beyond him, erase him and be free
  • Writes 3 short stories instead of the gun, they are loaded and lethal
  • Discovers her voice by writing her version of her father
  •  The adult woman
  • She has offered him a mirror through which to look at himself – and he throws her out
  • She hits him, he has hit back
  • There is no possibility of further dialogue – she returns to Portugal and he is left to die in South America
  • The resurfacing of the manta is something totally out of the blue that shows that the man was in fact a child, with a childlike innocence
  • This entirely contrasts with the image of the father in her short stories
  • Enables her to see a different aspect of him
  • The burial of the manta – Reverse of genealogy – she buries him like a child, enabling her to supercede the previous negative vision
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