Olímpico de Jesus
You don't have to know much about Olímpico de Jesus to know that he's bad news, and it has nothing to do with his slicked-back hair or his gold tooth. Nope. We Shmoopers aren't prejudiced like that. But we do know when someone needs a good kick in the pants, and Olímpico is seriously asking for one.
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Just check out the way he introduces himself to Macabéa as "Olímpico de Jesus Moreira Chaves" even though his real name is simply Olímpico de Jesus. Way to make yourself sound special, Olímpico.
Not that it's his fault, of course. (Is anything anyone's fault in this book?) His step-father is the one who "taught him how to ingratiate himself with people in order to get his own way and how to pick up girls" (3.133). We don't see much ingratiation, but we do see him pick up Macabéa—even if we can't exactly figure out what she sees in him.
Like, after he lies about his name, she asks him what it means. He tells her, "I know what it means, but I'm not telling you!"
See? It's not the gold tooth that sets him up as bad news; it's that the guy is a big fat jerk.
Although, it does seem like there's more to him than just ego. Our narrator makes excuses for him, explaining that "his determination to survive stemmed from his roots in a region noted for its primitive, savage way of life, its recurring spells of drought" (4.274). He high-tails it out of there as soon as he can, arriving in Rio de Janeiro with a comb and a tin of perfumed Vaseline (for slicking back his hair).
And, he does have a good job as a metal worker—ahem, metallurgist—although he'd much rather be a butcher. Because he likes blood. And he once wanted to be a bullfighter because, well, did we mention he likes blood?
In his spare time, Olímpico makes little carvings of saints. That sounds sweet, until you realize that he carves them with detailed genitalia. Yeah, we know, it just keeps getting better.
Olímpico wants to be rich and powerful. And, you know, he's on his way: he saved up to replace one of his (perfectly good) teeth with a gold implant, and he killed a rival. He keeps the crime secret because he likes "that sense of power which secrecy can bestow" (4.274).
Now for the complic8ed—ahem, complicated—part: he's obsessed with going to funerals and crying at reading strangers' obituaries. So, a little conflicted about this Big Bad act he's got going on.
Olímpico and Macabéa: A Match Made in H ... (fill in the blank)
By now you get the idea that Olímpico was not the nicest guy. We might even say he's a little crazy (in a bad way).
He does only two semi-nice things for Macabéa during the course of their brief relationship: (1) he buys her a cup of coffee, although he does tells her she has to pay for the milk if there's an extra charge for it; and (2) he offers to get her a job at the metal factory where he works should she get fired from her current typing job. That's it.
Everything else that he does and everything else that comes out of his mouth is ignorant, belligerent, or just plain mean. In fact, our narrator tells us that Olímpico "was wicked to the core. He enjoyed taking his revenge. Revenge gave him an enormous satisfaction and the strength to go on living" (4.151). It's not clear what he's taking revenge on—but it sounds like he's got a grudge against the world.
He's also got a lot invested in proving his manhood. Like, in order to impress Glória, Olímpico eats red hot peppers and withstands the pain of their sting, and when he finally wins her over, he "attacks" Glória "with the ferociousness of a male bee, craving for her honey and that succulent flesh" (4.322).
Or, the memorable time Olímpico tries to show off how strong he is by lifting up Macabéa. This is all very exciting, right until he drops her on her face and doesn't try to help her up or even ask if she's okay. You see, he's hurt his pride. His manly pride.
But no worries, Olímpico soon finds the vigor of his manhood again when he meets Macabéa's coworker, Glória, who he thinks "was made for bearing children" (4.279). Bye, bye Macabéa.
The most interesting thing about Olímpico is that he has dreams. He and Macabéa are from the same social class, with a big difference: Macabéa doesn't even know that such a thing as social class exists, so it's impossible for her to think about moving into a new one. Not Olímpico. He wants something better—whether that means being a butcher or a bullfighter or a politician.
Olímpico dumps Macabéa to date her coworker, Glória, precisely because he thinks that dating her will somehow get him ahead in life. In fact, our narrator tells us that Olímpico was determined to change his life and his destiny by joining the privileged. Macabéa, on the other hand is a "dead loss." She offers nothing that would contribute to Olímpico's dream of success.