Tendeiro’s discovery of the treasure preceding this passage raises many issues. It is ironic that such wealth should be found in soil as unproductive as the gï¿½nadara’s. This discovery could be seen as a good omen, that prosperity is about to return. On the other hand, the fact that it is a worker who finds the gold at a time when business is poor for the landowners suggests the Marxist thought of workers taking up arms against their bosses. The reference to Napoleon is reminiscent of an invasion like that of the multinationals later on in the novel; it again hints at the triumph of capitalism.
Miranda’s reaction on seeing the pot contrasts with his attempt to be authoritative and cold towards the workers. The sentences before the passage are narrated from Miranda’s point of view. It shows that in reality, he is as astonished and overwhelmed by the discovery as any of the workers: his heart is beating rapidly out of excitement and he almost falls flat on his face. Nevertheless, Miranda recovers his “sangue-frio”.
This phrase is significant because it reflects Miranda’s apparent superior attitude towards the workers but it is also a precursor to the strangling incident at the end of the passage and Hilario’s cold-blooded murder. Miranda’s interjection: “Para o trabalho. Eu trato disto mais o Tendeiro.” appears authoritative but his employees disregard him either on account of his weakness or out of amazement at the gold. Such disregard is again indicative of Marxist historical thought in which the lower classes would take up arms against their superiors. In the same vein, the discovery of money gives potential for a revolt.
Miranda’s next remark shows his frustration, firstly he tries to push his workers out of the way, and then he says: “pago o dia, quero o dia ganho.” This both implies that he wants to get his money’s worth out of the day workers since he pays them by the day but it also implies that he is entitled to the gold since he has control over them. His relationship with the workers appears to be one of an authoritative schoolteacher and pupils who are reluctant to work, this is characterised by the words: “Vamos lï¿½.” and the slow dispersal of the workers.
The workers were obviously as overawed with the discovery as Miranda, once their “espanto” has gone; they talk about what has happened. Although there is no direct speech, the next sentence is typical of what a worker would say. It is more colloquial: “Uma besta, o Tendeiro”. These words describe the workers’ opinion of Tendeiro but they also convey a sense of violence and bestial behaviour which is present in him at the end of this passage. The “jornaleiro’s” agree that Miranda should have kept his discovery quiet. It is as if they instinctively knew that he would try to claim the treasure for himself.
The next scene returns to Miranda and Tendeiro who are now alone. The very fact that Miranda is a “merceeiro” – a grocer – does not seem any different to Tendeiro whose name translates as a shopkeeper (or a grocer as well). It is then ironic that Miranda should have such contempt towards a person who is implicitly of the same social standing. One could argue that Miranda does have a right to claim the gold since it was found on his property. If this were true, his proposal to give Tendeiro a share of the money would be an act of generosity. On the other hand, if he were to keep the money himself, he would be in risk of outraging the workers. This shows the precarious relationship he has with the workers as well as his fear of them uprising. The latter explanation appears to be more conceivable, especially since he reluctantly offers him his share but immediately orders him to start digging on the pot.
Tendeiro’s act of wiping his nose on the back of his hand reminds us that he is an ill-mannered day worker but also gives his next speech a casual air: “Metade para mim. ï¿½ a lei…” This retort is either a blind assumption by Tendeiro or he could be calling on a hypothetical rule whereby the tenant receives half the share. In any case, this concise sentence reflects the authoritarian regime that they live under. Tendeiro quite rightly points out that he could have kept the money for himself but in an act of honesty he has given it up. It is interesting that he never directly claims the money for himself. This could show that Tendeiro is instinctively conceding to Miranda’s authoritative position.
Together with the imagery of “uma besta”, Tendeiro depicts himself as being as silent as a mouse. This animal appears previously in the novel in a reference to Lobisomem. It highlights the recurrence of animal imagery in the novel especially of those typical of the countryside, namely mice and bulls. Tendeiro’s synonym is characteristic of a simple country man who resorts to obvious but somewhat out of place expressions.
Miranda re-emphasises his status by putting a check to Tendeiro’s remarks: “nï¿½o sejas ambicioso”. This quotation reflects Salazar’s policies that there is no need for material progress in Portugal. It is also a condemnation of Miranda (and therefore Salazar?) that such a person is depicted in a bad light. These words underline the little power that the workers had under such a feudal system and they also condemn the backward nature of Portugal at the time.
Following Miranda’s offer to take the money or leave it, the perspective changes to Tendeiro’s view. He gives a dark look: “ao homem que o roubava.”
He contains his rage well since underneath his placid appearance his discontent is welling up. One gets the impression that the words “que o roubava” are actually what Tendeiro thinks of Miranda despite that in this instance the narrative is being told by an omnipresent person. The descriptive words: “…passando a mï¿½o na fazenda lustrosa do guarda-pï¿½.” show Tendeiro’s agitation and tension. The way in which the workers walk towards the end of the land and then the verb “Sumiram-se” could either mean that they have gone out of sight or that Tendeiro is focusing to such an extent that they have disappeared.
In the same way the pine forest, the village and the sky disappear because he is only concentrating on Miranda. It now appears that the two are truly alone, Tendeiro is oblivious to everything around him – it could be this state of mood which drives him to strangle Miranda. As Tendeiro comes closer and closer to Miranda his neck obviously grows larger but this imagery could also be reminiscent of a proud rooster. The repetition of the word “mais” emphasizes Tendeiro’s ruthlessness and persistence when it comes to strangling Miranda.
When Tendeiro attacks Miranda, he is like a predatory animal attacking his prey. His calloused hands are rough compared to Miranda’s white, fleshy skin. The white skin of the shopkeepers has been mentioned earlier in the story, it shows that in reality they have not done a day’s work outside. The colours “vermelha” and “roxa” have also been mentioned together in the scene at Palmira’s house. This description shows the extent to which Miranda is suffering under Tendeiro’s hold but there is also a parallel with the colours of a sunset. If one parallels the colour black with death, one can see how brutal Tendeiro’s attack was. He lets go in an act of emotion and disgust, presumably shocked at what he has just done. This act is another reversal of roles, previously it was Miranda who was abusing the peasants.
This passage shows Carlos de Oliveira’s talent for descriptive writing as well as his ability to conceal messages that would otherwise have been censored. Tendeiro’s outburst can be seen as a revolt against a man whose sole concern is money. Likewise, Oliveira attacks the Salazarian regime of “o paï¿½s esencialmente agrï¿½cola” and demonstrates the instability in the relationship between landowner and worker.