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The Symbiosis of Rich and Poor

In Child of the Dark, the fates of the rich and poor are intertwined, and the rich ignore the existence and plight of the poor at their own peril. Though the rich might want to forget about the poor and push them out of sight in the favelas, the poor are as vital to the city as the rich are. When Carolina crosses the dividing line between these two worlds, she sees the contrast and connection between them more clearly. Several times, strong imagery highlights this parallel track, such as the image of the city as a beautiful woman with cheap, torn stockings underneath her ritzy clothes, and especially in terms of the image of São Paulo as a house where the favela functions as a backyard garbage dump. The rich would be lost without a place to dump their garbage, Carolina seems to be saying, and this unsettling observation provides a new perspective on the ever-present link between rich and poor.

The Value of Independence

Carolina’s pride in her own independence is the central value that determines both her identity and the way she interacts with other favelados. On one level, her independence is the main guiding force in a strong set of values that she adheres to in the face of numerous threats and temptations. Rampant theft, alcoholism, and violence surround her, and to set herself apart from these scourges, she must maintain a mental distance from them. On another level, Carolina’s sense of independence grows out of her resistance to, or mistrust of, other people. Manuel repeatedly proposes marriage, and when she turns him down, Carolina refers to her closely held sense of independence. She points to the subservience that other women must endure in marriage as her reason for staying alone, and since Carolina’s independence defines her sense of self, giving up her autonomy would compromise not only her social standing but also her sense of identity as a writer.

The Power of Words

Whether she is simply recording daily events or creating complex critiques of those around her, Carolina derives tremendous power and identity from the act of writing. On the most basic level, Carolina uses her diary as a weapon against those in the favela who wrong her—she threatens to put them in her book. If Carolina didn’t sense that words have intrinsic power, she wouldn’t bother making such a threat. There are subtler means, however, that Carolina uses to express the power of writing in her life, such as when she describes how writing makes her feel as though she lives in a golden castle. When she writes about her desire to escape the favela, she is putting words to—and therefore making more real—something she only dreams about.

The Blindness of Authority

Fighting back at figures of authority in both the church and the government through her writing, Carolina accuses those in power for being blind to the needs of the poor. She chides the president of Brazil for being like a bird in a gilded cage, ignorant of the hungry cats (the favelados) who are circling. She takes on rich business owners, who price common goods at a level that is out of the poor’s reach. She castigates clergymen for preaching sermons that are not only out of touch with the favela but may in fact be harmful. For example, one sermon advised faveladosto have more children. Throughout the diary, Carolina repeatedly calls attention to the responsibility that those in power have shirked. In that sense, her diary acts as a corrective to the neglect that the favela has endured for so many years.