Marxism is a method of socio-economic analysis and worldview based on a materialist interpretation of historical development, a dialectical view of social transformation, and an analysis of class-relations and conflict within society. Marxist methodology informs an economic and sociopolitical enquiry applying to the analysis and critique of the development of capitalism and the role of class struggle in systemic economic change.
Strong social-political critique of nineteenth-century Brazil.
Critics have been for the most part reluctant to accept that Azevedo was attempting to make clear political claims through his novels
Observe the ‘spectacle of the masses’ and spy on the novel’s ‘best character’, the tenement: the novel is colourful, brings us close to the people, but has no depth. This is perhaps the reason why O Cortiço, in spite of being considered one of the best novels in Brazilian literature, has received very few detailed analyses of its social processes, its structure, or indeed almost any other of its aspects.
By examining in detail how space is configured in the novel, I hope to show that O Cortiço actually reveals a deep sense of social injustice and class exploitation.
- João Romão, the penny-pinching Portuguese immigrant is also a memorable character from O Cortiço, and so are the young prostitute Pombinha and the slave Bertoleza — all of them well remembered precisely because, I should add, they are types or caricatures. The fact that these and other characters in O Cortiço supposedly lack psychological depth does not make the relationship between them unimportant with respect to sexual and identity negotiations, as Mendes demonstrated, 18 or from the point of view of social and economic structures.
Double reference to space and people, and if at the same time we expand the idea of ‘people’ to include not just crowds but the relationships between individuals, we can start to read the novel as a quite well-accomplished analysis of economic power as it is inscribed in the urban space of Rio de Janeiro - social organism
At the time, Brazil was slowly emerging from slavery with a series of laws that led to Abolition (1888) and the Republic (1889), the massive urbanization that drew in immigrants both within the country and from Europe, and the consequences all this had for the national imaginary of environment.
Pace in O Cortiço is made up of people: their relationship with each other, the back-and-forth of their movements through the patio, the up-and-down views between Miranda’s rich mansion and the tiny houses, the sounds of music, fights, and love-making as they are heard by anxious listeners. If we try to find the spatial model to represent this idea it will certainly not be the Euclidean notion of absolute space. The Aristotelian categories could be more useful (for we can basically talk about unity of space in O Cortiço), but they bring with them an unhelpful tendency to separate space from time and from other narrative elements, which is not appropriate, not even provisionally, to Azevedo’s novel. Neither can space in it be depicted as a container inside which stories develop. Rather, the notion that can most usefully guide us through Azevedo’s novel is Henri Lefebvre’s ‘social space’, which as he explains in a self-conscious tautology, ‘is a social product’.
O Cortiço, the role of the miser is reserved, following the traditional anti- Jewish discourse of the time, to the old Jew, Libório.
Slavery and theft are also represented as twin principles in O Cortiço, since the economic progress of João Romão depended, initially, on the money and work of Bertoleza, and on the theft of tools, building materials, and even bits of land. Theft continued to be a common practice for João Romão throughout his career — as we can see after the fire that destroys the tenement, when he steals money from the old Libório, and on many other occasions.
Through João Romão,