Under The Spell of Amazon: Exploring the Structures of Race and Class in John Updike’s Novel Brazil (Published)
This paper is an attempt to examine how John Updike (1932-2009) a prominent American novelist, constructs in Brazil (1994) scenarios that reveal to his readers, moment by moment, the rich complexity of Brazilian race relations. I also seek to point out how Updike sets forth the complicated racial issues in modern-day Brazil through the hardships his two main characters, Tristão and Isabel, undergo. In a way, Updike seeks to identify parallel selves in individuals of other nations; individuals whom one would typically categorize as “Others”. The paper also discusses how Updike attempts to de-emphasize racial differences and suggests that humans are all connected to one another as mixed combinations of color. I argue that in a society where racial identities are not clearly definable and where miscegenation is commonplace, interracial unions are more easily accepted. Updike, however, sees that behind this admixture there is a bias linked to skin color and social class. Meanwhile, I argue that Updike’s text is stronger in his sense of place than his sense of people. In other words, though Updike poses the problems of race and identity, he falls short of that, because the main ideas of the novel—the questions of race and class—are never deeply explored or illuminated.