The Girl With a Twisted Future by Mia Couto
In The Girl With a Twisted Future by Mia Couto we have the theme of exploitation, control, anguish, paralysis, determination and happiness. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Couto may be exploring the theme of exploitation. Joseldo is forcing his daughter, Filomeninha, to do things that she does not wish to do and forcing her to do so for Joseldo’s personal gain. He believes that by training Filomeninha to be a contortionist his life will improve both socially and financially. He will be able to enjoy or reap the benefits of Filomeninha’s success as a contortionist. The reader aware that at no time is Filomeninha in control of her own life. It is her father who is doing everything possible to improve his family’s outlook. If anything Joseldo is in complete control throughout the story despite the anguish that Filomeninha feels. She is not very happy with the position she finds herself in. Something to which the reader can understand.
How domineering Joseldo may actually be is noticeable by his eagerness for Filomeninha to contort her body from morning to night. Even going as far as tying a petrol drum to her back in order for her to be able to properly contort herself. It would not be wrong to suggest that this in itself may be considered to be form of abuse. Again so Joseldo can profit from his daughter. As for Joseldo’s wife. She at no stage intervenes or helps her daughter. She is muted by Joseldo’s tongue and spends the majority of the story in the background. This may be significant as Couto may be suggesting that Joseldo’s wife and Filomeninha live in a patriarchal society. One in whereby women do not have a voice. It is also clear to the reader that Filomeninha has no interest in becoming a contortionist and is only doing so in order to not only satisfy her father’s wishes but to also ensure the peace remains within the family. Control if anything is imperative to Joseldo. His thirst for knowledge (or gossip) being an example.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. Joseldo’s occupation, he is a mechanic, suggests he has the ability to fix things. However he takes things to the extreme when he straps a petrol drum around Filomeninha. The petrol drum itself may also be important as it paralyses Filomeninha and allows for Joseldo to remain in complete control of his daughter. The new dress that Filomeninha takes from her mother may also be significant as Couto could be using the dress to suggest that Joseldo is really attempting to glamorize his daughter and hide the pain that Filomeninha is experiencing from trying to contort herself. If anything Joseldo by giving his daughter the dress is taking away from the fact that she is in physical pain. The fact that Joseldo has to wait all day to see the impresario further suggests a degree of control being used in the story. However this time it is Joseldo who is being controlled. Something that he himself is blind to. The title of the story might also have symbolical significance and Couto could be using the title to suggest not only that Filomeninha will physically twist her body in order to satisfy her father but she will also end up twisted or broken.
The end of the story is interesting as the reader gets an insight into how determined Joseldo is. He tells Filomeninha that she has strong teeth and the reader is only too well aware that Joseldo’s motives are not pure. Filomeninha may not become a contortionist but she can be used in other ways that might suit her father. Who fails to realise just how sick Filomeninha is. She dies at the end of the story, her body lying weightless on Joseldo’s lap. Joseldo has taken advantage of Filomeninha to the point in which she is exhausted and dies. What is disappointing about the story is the fact that the reader never gets to see or hear of Joseldo’s reaction to Filomeninha’s death. We are left to assume that he will be abusive towards one of his other children and that they will provide for him and his family. Joseldo has another eleven children he can control and call upon in order to satisfy his and the impresario’s needs. Ultimately Joseldo has sacrificed Filomeninha in order that he could have a more comfortable life.