“1After her parents' divorce, Virgínia went to live with her mother and (as she then believed) stepfather, whom she hated – or tried to hate – because of her sister's accusation of him having torn apart her family. Virgínia couldn't get along with her stepfather, she couldn't get along with her mother – sick and mad, lost in hallucinations interrupted only by few minutes of lucidity – and she certainly couldn't get along with her other family, that is, her father, her sisters and their close friends, Augusto, Conrado and Letícia.
It hurt her to be alone, to be excluded, to be kept out of the dance. Hence, one day, when her mother – and, as she found out, the man who was actually her real father – died, Virgínia went to live with the others, believing she'd finally be accepted as part of the group. She wasn't.
So, she went to a catholic internship school where she couldn't fit as well, but she spent some years there and believed she had grown. This is probably when she started hallucinating as well, because after that the book started to narrate how she became the centre of the dance, how she became disputed by all those who despised her before etc.
Madness or not, fact is she then let herself be led, she bent to the gale, accepting the love and the generosity of whoever was closest. And, of course, she hurt everybody in the end, she left them all out of the dance, ultimately absolving them all”.
The ending is of course the best part of the story, the part that explains all the rest and the title of the book. But it's not what matters to me (right now, that is).
Let's take an imaginary character, whom i'll name L. She lives her life normally, unaware that she was constantly being victim of her neighbors' cruellest poison: she was judged daily.
It wasn't premeditated, but it was a crime: they saw her, her habits, her clothes, her doings. They talked about it. As casually as they talked about the weather, of course, and innocently, too, but they talked and they created imaginary stories and hence, they forced her to live many misadventures of which she wasn't even aware.
It started as mere observation, but soon it grew to be more than that. With friendly tones, people would stop her on the street and say things like Be careful with those scuba diving classes, or Learning dutch is probably not going to help you with your career; you should study french, instead. L. would smile, nod and walk away, but she'd always take some of what was said in consideration. Soon, she'd start seeking those recommendations, instead of passively receiving them. She'd look for approval before every new engagement and wouldn't feel comfortable or safe if she couldn't get it.
Initially, it influenced her decisions regarding potentially dangerous activities, or those which could irreversibly affect her future, so that she'd run to her neighbors or colleagues before going to job interviews or assigning for a certain class at college. However, one day, when L. was asked out to dinner, she ran to her neighbor's door and left the phone still on, over the table. The guy on the other side wondered what was going on as she took a few minutes to pick the phone back up and reply: Pick me up at 8PM.
But dating brings serious questioning. From the outside, deciding when to say I love you may seem less relevant than choosing one's dog's name, but loving has nothing to do with the outside. Hence, L. needed support on her decisions. And, because it has nothing to do with the outside, her acquaintances failed to give them to her. She was helpless and scared; she didn't want to hurt or to be hurt. It was, thus, just natural that P. – let's name the guy this way – would assume this guiding role. Imagine how dangerous this is.
The romance went well, of course. Leading, P. was obviously very satisfied, and i do mean it in every possible way. Being lead, L. was free of worries about their future together or about the pace of their evolution as a couple. In an unnatural way, things worked out.
Outsiders, on the other hand, became a little uncomfortable with L.'s acquiescence to P.'s somewhat liberal guidance. While they still had nothing to do with love, they had much to do with pretty much everything else regarding L.'s life, and their constant criticism to her behavior put her in a situation of indecision. She willed to stick to P.'s command, for it made him happy and kept her secure, but she also feared other people's disapproval. She would commit to his wishes when they were together, only to repudiate them when apart, but she wasn't faking anything: with her judgment displaced to anyone near her, their opinion were hers, no matter how incoherent.
The incapacity to conciliate her actions made her ignore discrepancies and be oblivious to hypocrisies. She payed ever less attention to her doings and thought ever less about her actions, blowing to the wind or, to recall the metaphor, she bent to the gale. She was reed, not oak. And yet, one day, she broke.
1The quote indicates the beginning of a description full of spoilers of the book Ciranda de Pedra, by Lygia Fagundes Telles.