Western world convention dictates, primarily through religious teachings, that a marriage should be comprised of one male and one female. Polygamy is legal in some countries, under Islamic law, and in some African nations. Based upon their religious and cultural foundations, the system of polygamist marriages has stood successfully for centuries in those countries.
In Western culture, there have been attempts to establish polygamist groups, primarily based upon differing religious viewpoints; however, most of these have not been able to withstand the pressure applied by the religious and cultural majority. If one wants to live and prosper in a given society, it is not advantageous to swim too hard against the current. In the movie, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, while it ends with the three main characters living together happily ever after, it is in a spiritual sense that they do so, rather than an actual polygamist relationship. Dona Flors first husbands spirit remains with her during her second marriage to fill something lacking in her new relationship. In a sense, we all do this in our relationships.
A bit of the essence of our past loves remains with us throughout our lives, filling whatever voids may be present in our current relationships. The only time I could see that as being a problem is when, in the current relationship, the voids outweigh the fulfillment and we put more emphasis on the ghost rather than the actual current relationship. In the film, after Flor married the intelligent but inexperienced and unexciting Doctor, she came to miss the passion and excitement from her first marriage. Her void, which she suffered silently, was filled by the presence of her ex-husbands ghost, which provided her with the passion and excitement she so desperately needed.
Dona Flor wanted different things from each of her husbands. From Vadinho, she wanted passion and excitement. It did not matter to her that he was an alcoholic, abusive husband with an addiction to gambling and prostitutes. As long as she obtained the passion and excitement she craved from Vadinho, it was only her friends and family that objected to the relationship and tried to convince her to leave. She did not want to leave him; even after he beat her, stole her money, and left her for several days.
She blamed herself and her inability to have children for much of their problems. Even after his death, she did not want to leave him and her first dream came immediately; it included singing, dancing, drinking, gambling, and wild, passionate sex. In spite of her hating the excessive drinking and gambling, she could only think, Never again his lips! Vadinho gave her all the passion and excitement Flor desired. So strong was this passion that it continued, even after his death.
From Dr. Teodoro, she wanted security, stability, and social status. She also needed to put an end to her sexual frustration, as the words of the song she sang while cooking demonstrated: If your guest seeks more refined game, serve him a more sensitive dish. A young and beautiful widowWhose bed is a desert to be crossed, Endless burning sands of desire, when every nerve begs, and every fiber demands, and my anguish makes me implore, what has no limit and never will Yet, from the beginning of her relationship with the Doctor, she was still missing the passion and excitement she experienced with Vadinho.
When she received the initial love letter from the Doctor, she thought, Outside a serious girl, inside a bad girl dreaming of naughty things! The Doctors rigid formality and fear of expressing his love openly expressed itself even on their honeymoon as they stood together at the beach and he hesitated to put his hand around his new brides waist. Vadinho mentioned several times, when he reappeared as a spirit that he came back because Flor had been calling for him. She had been calling him because of her despair at having lost the strong sexual passion they had shared. With her new relationship she got the security, stability, and social status she wanted but the Doctor could never give her the passion and excitement she needed.
Vadinho wanted Flor to support his habits: drinking, gambling and sex. His love for her was more of a passionate sort rather than a romantic one and even during their wedding night he gambled heavily and visited a house of prostitution. When Flor mentions that she sometimes thinks they could be a couple like any other, Vadinho replies Sure, and wed sit on the sidewalk and gossip, Id play backgammon while you read this book from the girls library. He could not live a quiet average lifestyle and deep inside she realized and accepted this.
Flor did support and accept his habits, though reluctantly, as long as he provided her with the passion and excitement she needed. Even when he beat her for her last hidden stash of money, she could not bring herself to pack up and leave without the prodding of her friends and family. Teodoro wanted a beautiful wife to care for. He wanted to share his life with a woman, with her serving the role of a companion. He is so formal and unromantic that he finds himself providing Flor with scientific explanations for the beauty she saw in the night sky. He constantly kisses her on the forehead as a father would to a child.
His first steps after the honeymoon were to fire Flors long-employed maid and to reorganize the house with a place for everything and everything in its place! The Doctor got everything he wanted from Flor. She became the dutiful, loving wife and companion he wanted on the outside, while on the inside she maintained her passion and excitement with Vadinho.