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"Brazil" Characters Analysis

By John Updike

fiction | 272 pages | Published in NaN

The richest and most sensual novel in years from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the Rabbit series. Two young, beautiful lovers, a black child of the Rio slums and a pampered upper-class white girl, endure privation, violence, and captivity to be together.


Estimated read time: 8 min read

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Tristão RaposoProtagonist
IsabelTristão's Wife
Isabel's MotherSupporting Character
Tristão's FatherSupporting Character
MariaTristão's Mistress
Father FranciscoSupporting Character
Mãe MariaSupporting Character
Dr. Assis PeixotoSupporting Character
Dr. GilSupporting Character
Dona CarmoSupporting Character

Role Identification

Tristão Raposo is the protagonist of the novel "Brazil" by John Updike. He is a young Brazilian man who embarks on a journey to find his own identity and purpose in life. The other characters in the book play various supporting roles in Tristão's life and his exploration of the complexities of love, passion, and societal expectations.

Character Descriptions

Tristão Raposo

Tristão Raposo is a young man with a strong desire for adventure and self-discovery. He is described as tall and handsome, with dark hair and a charismatic presence. Tristão's physical appearance reflects his inner restlessness and longing for something more in life.


Isabel is Tristão's wife. She is portrayed as a beautiful and delicate woman, possessing a gentle nature and a deep love for Tristão. Isabel's character serves as a contrast to Tristão's desires for adventure and passion, representing stability and domesticity.

Isabel's Mother

Isabel's mother is a supporting character who represents traditional societal values and expectations. She is portrayed as a strict and conservative woman, often placing pressure on Isabel to conform to societal norms rather than pursue her own desires.

Tristão's Father

Tristão's father is a minor character in the novel. He is depicted as a hard-working man who values tradition and stability. His character serves as a foil to Tristão's desire for freedom and exploration.


Félix is the antagonist of the story. He is a wealthy and powerful man who becomes Tristão's rival for Isabel's affections. Félix is described as cunning and manipulative, using his wealth and influence to control those around him.


Maria is Tristão's mistress. She is a vibrant and passionate woman who offers Tristão an escape from his mundane life. Maria serves as a catalyst for Tristão's character development, challenging his beliefs and pushing him to confront his desires and responsibilities.

Father Francisco

Father Francisco is a supportive character in the novel. He is a kind and understanding priest who offers guidance and moral support to Tristão throughout his journey. Father Francisco provides a listening ear and a source of wisdom for Tristão as he navigates the complexities of his relationships and personal growth.

Mãe Maria

Mãe Maria is a wise and respected woman in Tristão's community. She is known for her intuitive abilities and connection to the spiritual realm. Mãe Maria serves as a source of guidance and spiritual enlightenment for Tristão, helping him to understand his own desires and find inner peace.

Dr. Assis Peixoto

Dr. Assis Peixoto is a doctor and a friend of Tristão. He is depicted as a compassionate and knowledgeable man who provides medical care and advice to Tristão throughout his journey. Dr. Assis Peixoto represents the rational and scientific side of Tristão's journey, offering a counterbalance to the emotional and spiritual aspects.

Dr. Gil

Dr. Gil is another doctor and friend of Tristão. He plays a minor role in the novel, providing medical assistance and advice when needed. Dr. Gil's character adds depth to the narrative by showcasing the support network that Tristão has during his journey.

Dona Carmo

Dona Carmo is a supporting character who runs a local tavern. She is a charismatic and vivacious woman who serves as a confidante for Tristão. Dona Carmo provides a listening ear and offers a place of solace for Tristão to reflect on his experiences and emotions.

Character Traits

  • Tristão Raposo: Adventurous, restless, charismatic, conflicted, passionate.
  • Isabel: Gentle, loving, traditional, supportive.
  • Isabel's Mother: Strict, conservative, traditional, controlling.
  • Tristão's Father: Hard-working, traditional, stable.
  • Félix: Wealthy, manipulative, cunning, jealous.
  • Maria: Vibrant, passionate, challenging, free-spirited.
  • Father Francisco: Kind, understanding, wise, supportive.
  • Mãe Maria: Wise, intuitive, spiritual, guiding.
  • Dr. Assis Peixoto: Compassionate, knowledgeable, rational.
  • Dr. Gil: Supportive, reliable, minor role.
  • Dona Carmo: Charismatic, vivacious, confidante.

Character Background

Tristão Raposo comes from a modest background in Brazil. He grew up in a small town with traditional values and expectations. Tristão's desire for adventure and self-discovery led him to leave his hometown in search of something more meaningful. He meets Isabel, falls in love, and marries her, but his inner restlessness and yearning for passion and excitement threaten to disrupt their marriage.

Isabel comes from a conservative family, and her mother has always had high expectations for her daughter's behavior and choices. Tristão's father represents the stability and traditional values that Tristão feels conflicted about. Félix, a wealthy and powerful man, becomes a rival for Isabel's affections, forcing Tristão to confront his own insecurities and desires.

Maria enters Tristão's life as his mistress, offering him an escape from his mundane existence. She represents freedom and passion, challenging Tristão to question his own values and priorities. Throughout the novel, Tristão seeks guidance from Father Francisco and Mãe Maria, who provide spiritual and moral support on his journey.

Character Arcs

Tristão's character arc in "Brazil" is one of self-discovery and personal growth. At the beginning of the novel, he is restless and searching for something more in life. His encounter with Isabel and his subsequent marriage provide stability but also raise questions about his desires and the constraints of societal expectations.

As Tristão meets Maria and engages in an affair, his character undergoes significant transformation. He is forced to confront his conflicting emotions and desires, ultimately leading him to reevaluate his priorities and make difficult choices. Tristão's journey culminates in a realization of the importance of love, commitment, and personal fulfillment.


  • Tristão and Isabel: Tristão's relationship with Isabel is a central focus of the novel. They start as a newly married couple, but Tristão's restlessness threatens their stability. Their relationship undergoes challenges and strains as Tristão explores his desires and engages in an affair with Maria.
  • Tristão and Félix: Félix becomes Tristão's rival for Isabel's affections. Their relationship is characterized by jealousy and competition, highlighting Tristão's insecurities and desires for validation and success.
  • Tristão and Maria: Maria serves as Tristão's mistress and represents a passionate and liberating relationship. Their connection pushes Tristão to question his values and confront his desires, leading to significant character development.
  • Tristão and Father Francisco: Father Francisco provides guidance and moral support to Tristão throughout his journey. Their relationship is marked by trust and understanding, as Tristão seeks spiritual and emotional guidance from the priest.
  • Tristão and Mãe Maria: Mãe Maria represents a spiritual guide for Tristão. Her relationship with him is characterized by intuitive connections and wisdom, helping Tristão navigate his own desires and find inner peace.
  • Tristão and Dr. Assis Peixoto/Dr. Gil: These two doctors serve as supportive figures in Tristão's life, offering medical assistance and advice when needed. Although their roles are minor, their relationships with Tristão contribute to his overall support network during his journey.
  • Tristão and Dona Carmo: Dona Carmo, the owner of a local tavern, serves as a confidante for Tristão. Their relationship provides a space for Tristão to reflect on his experiences and emotions.

In "Brazil" by John Updike, the characters and their relationships play a significant role in shaping the protagonist's journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Through various conflicts and challenges, Tristão navigates his desires, societal expectations, and the complexities of love and passion.