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Child of the Dark: the Diary of Carolina Maria De Jesus

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Child of the Dark: the Diary of Carolina Maria De Jesus

In "Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus," Carolina tells the tale of her day-to-day experiences as single mother of three, living in a Favelas. Carolina's life was a constant battle to survive the horrendous conditions within the impoverished Favelas. Like in most other destitute communities, hunger reigned as the supreme concern, especially amongst families. By repetitively documenting each one of her days in the Favelas, whether mundane or not, Carolina unveils the daunting truth about food's demand in Brazil's Favelas. For Carolina, the task of finding something to eat was grueling and weighed heavily upon her life. Carolina's daily battle against hunger dictated the day-to-day agenda of her life because she lived an extremely hostile and economically depressed community, she had an illegitimate job with horrendous income and she insisted on keeping all her children well fed.

In addition to being economically depressed communities, Favelas were profoundly hostile environments, making rearing a family a practically unbearable feat. Carolina never had peace of mind when she was away from her children collecting paper because hostile neighbors would consistently harass her children, claiming they were not properly punished. Carolina felt she was specifically targeted by her destitute drunken neighbors because they envied her children's extraordinary well-being. When collecting paper one afternoon, Carolina expresses the uneasiness she feels leaving her children home alone amongst her terroristic neighbors, writing "I left the children playing in the yard. I got a lot of paper. I worked fast, thinking that those human beasts are capable of invading my shack and mistreating my children. I worked on, nervous and upset" (Maria de Jesus, 1960). Due to the overwhelming demand of time required of Carolina to earn enough for food, Carolina had no choice but to work long hours for petty change, all the while agonizing over the likely possibility that her children were being attacked by her nasty neighbors. Food was the one thing she insisted her family needed and so, in spite of her legitimate dread for her children's safety, she endangered her children's safety on a day-to-day basis, leaving them home alone with the malicious neighbors. She reluctantly acted against her convicting instincts because the alternative, neglecting her children's nourishment was not an option. No matter what the cost, time, energy, the children's safety, Carolina paid the price each and every day to stifle the unrelenting growls coming from her family's bellies.

Carolina's battle to survive entailed her investing outrageous amounts of time and energy each and every day in order to yield just barely enough money to feed her family for one day/night. Committing practically all her time into a job with a pitiful income, Carolina could afford practically nothing except the bare minimum amount of food needed to sustain her family. The other common option for women to earn money in the Favelas was prostitution (drug dealing?) but Carolina did find the demeaning "occupation" to be morally acceptable; and so, she had no choice but to scrounge for trash to get by. In the horrifically economically depressed Favelas, job options were limited, to say the least. The very first line of Carolina's diary, she writes "July 5, 1955 The birthday of my daughter, Vera Eunice. I wanted to buy a pair of shoes for her, but the price of feed keeps us from realizing our desires. Actually we are slaves to the cost of living. I found a pair of shoes in the garbage, washed them, and patched them for her to wear." (Maria de Jesus, 1960). By beginning the diary with an explanation of food's debilitating constraint on her life, Carolina is clearly alluding to the book's prevailing theme that her quest for food in the Favelas preoccupies practically all the time and effort she has in her life. Carolina's tedious and exhausting job of collecting paper, bottles and other "lucrative" trash items would yield approximately 60 cruzeiros for an entire's day work, leaving her practically empty-handed, if not completely empty-handed after groceries. Carolina indicates this reality when she writes, "I got one kilo of ham and one kilo of sugar and spent six cruzeiros on cheese. And the money was gone." (Maria de Jesus, 1960). With no other acceptable money-earning alternatives, Carolina was limited to a trash-picker's income, hence her inability to save money for anything far beyond food. Carolina's frustrating cyclical struggle for food never ends and therein lays her wearisome problem. Carolina realizes her unfortunate inescapable fate and so, she wrote her life in the Favelas, which she hoped would convict the hearts of many and one day induce the change she so desperately yearned for.


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