“What psychological and philosophical devices does Macabea employ as a means of coping with her perpetual state of destitution?”
On several occasions during the story, Macabea is noted by the narrator to have nearly considered the utter depravity of her external conditions. However, she avoids despair by simply accepting such things as she encounters them in particular moments, rarely pausing to reflect upon the gravity of her reality. An early example of this occurs as the narrator is describing her physical appearance and lack of decent food, and she is quoted as saying “it is so because it is so” (55). This tendency also manifests itself in her conception of the divine when it is revealed that despite her frequent recital of prayers, she does not believe in God since she never observes Him firsthand (81). Later, upon being fatally struck by a car following her meeting with the fortune teller, she promptly examines some nearby grass and rejoices as having been “born for death’s embrace” (441).
Lespector includes parentheses interjected throughout the novel, these include commentary on life(and death) and on what is occurring in the book. What is the goal/the purpose of these interjections?
These comments are being made by the narrator and they are in parentheses in order to indicate that they are asides and not apart of the normal dialogue. These asides are made by the narrator which is also representative of Lispector herself. The narrator and Lispector are acting like guides through this “murky” flow of consciousness novel. There are many examples indicated that Lispector is showing her own voice in these parentheses. One of these examples is “(I warned that this was a cheap tearjerker, even though I refuse to show any mercy)” (25). This is in reference to the “thirteen titles” that are named at the beginning of the book. Since these titles are a way for Lispector to show the multifaceted aspects of the novel her reference to these draws the reader’s attention to the many titles.
How does the author tell us about different socioeconomic class in the novel and why?
Response: Macabéa is a typical teenager who dreams to be a Marlyn Monroe or eats hot dogs and drinks Coca-Cola. As a typical college student, I would say she would be eating lots of pizza as well. However, the situation is not that easy for her. She is 19 years old and works as a typist and living with four other girls. Her job does not look secure. She lived with her aunt, who was not loving. Her appearance is described as sickly, very thin and gloomy. As apparent in the above, she is living in poverty. The author provided a detailed description of Macabéa’s socioeconomic class, as a lower class. In contrast, the narrator, Rodrigo is well-raised, confident and really excited to tell the story. The story that narrator tells do not match with his background. By using two completely opposite character to discuss poverty, the author wanted to make a claim that the government and people must think on the side of the poor not the side of the rich.
Question: What is the justification for both Macabéa’s acquaintances and the narrator to verbally abuse her?
A major theme of the novel are the physical and psychological effects on Macabéa placed on her from her poor living conditions. She in an underpaid typist with poor skills and is constantly verbally abused by her boss (13). The majority characters in the novel emphasize this point, from her ex-boyfriend Olímpico de Jesus allowing his hyper masculinity to cut off ties with Macabéa for days because he failed to lift her up (44) or shutting down her dreams of being a film actress (45), to her co-worker Gloria insulting her makeup (53). The sole time Macabéa rejects these insults is towards Gloria’s insult. Aside from this exception, Macabéa consistently endures insults and condescension from her peers, often times unable to understand that comments directed at her were negative. Her abuse has been normalized since childhood, considering her relationship with her aunt who would beat her head to prevent a life of vagrancy (20).
These relationships are the foundation for Lispector’s portrayal of lower class Brazilians. The novel draws attention to how Macabéa is treated and systematically held back due to her weak educational background. However, Lispector’s own narrator subjugates Macabéa further by insulting her while telling her story. This unreliable narrator refers to her as a stray dog (10) and unwanted coffee (20), while still proclaiming their love for her (21). The purpose of these insults is to emphasize the idea that even the one telling the story is not free of bias, that even though they are not directly interacting with Macabéa, they still view her as lesser for her educational and economic status. Classist sentiments are allegorized in the final scene, in which an upper-class, foreign born driver of a Mercedes hits Macabéa, ultimately killing her (74). The lack of the driver’s concern for her wellbeing, along with the fact that no one actively tries to help her find medical assistance, drives home the justification for her abuse; Macabéa is inherently worth less than other Brazilians for her economic status.
Question: How does Lispector show masculinity in the character of Olímpico?
Ultimately, the need for power is woven through all of Olímpico’s desires and actions. He seeks to increase his power over others, be them women (Macabéa and Glória) or men above his social and economic standing. To do this with the former, he constantly puts down Macabéa to inflate his own ego, reducing her power in their relationship to increase his own. His approach with Glória is different, but still hinges on proving his superiority and demanding her submission. This is seen in the scene where he eats a hot pepper to impress Glória, as Lispector writes, “the nearly unbearable pain nevertheless toughened him, not to mention that Glória terrified started to obey him. He thought: didn’t I say I was a conqueror?” (56) Lispector continues, noting his desire to improve his social standing, wealth, and physical strength. With the latter, that is men above Olímpico’s social and economic standing, he attempts to make himself appear more prosperous than he actually is, donning a watch, calling himself a “metallurgist” (36), and showing possession of the right woman.
How does Macabea’s interaction with Madame Carlota reflect early attitudes toward women in Brazil?
The Macabea’s interactions with Madame Carlota are symbolic of the larger attitudes towards women in Brazil for several reasons. One, this interaction shows a clear exploitation of Macabea’s insecurities and vulnerabilities. Carlota targets her by first telling her of a life of pain and disappointment, but then immediately changes course to explain that Carlota’s life will be happy and fulfilling (66). While the specificities of the exchange are not as importance, the way that the author shows Macabea’s immediate acceptance shows a commentary on the perceived naivety and submissiveness of women. Her inability to notice the complete turnaround in her life as part of Carlota’s scheme to exploit money from her also reinforces this notion. Furthermore, Carlota’s reasoning for asking for payment, namely that “everything [she] earns as a card-reader [she] gives to an orphanage,” and Carlota’s acceptance of that excuse also shows the association of trustingness with femininity (68). While this scene specifically shows how the author was commenting on the perceptions of women in early Brazil, Macabea’s other interactions also show those stereotypes. For instance, her interactions with her boyfriend, Olimpico de Jesus, shows the idea of trustingness. Despite his lying about most aspects of his life, she still believes and accepts him without question (36). Thus, this novel provides important commentary on gender stereotypes in Brazil and in a larger context.
Question: How does the narration style influence how reader’s see both the narrator and how the story is interpreted?
Throughout The Hour of the Star, the narrator is a central character that invokes strong emotions through the style of narration. Within the telling of the story, the narrator both reveals details about himself as well as others. I found it interesting how the narrator uses words to sort of paint pictures of the story. One example is on page 26 when the narrator discusses aspects moving in slow motion, so he elongates his words. How does this imagery help the reader to visualize the scene? In my opinion, these various techniques help to create real emotions in the reader, such as frustration in my case.
Discussion Question: What is the point in calling this Macabea “stupid” or “dumb” at times.
So from reading the text, there are various examples where the narrator takes a step back and talks about Macabea’s life. It strikes me as she is trapped in this situation and she can’t escape due to her lack of abilities. Like I understand the story is trying to present this girl as the main focus but at the same time, its constantly berating the character. But it doesn’t seem very practical while trying to explain her importance. I suppose its all symbolism because at the beginning it briefly mentions that she is one of many that came from the northeast to settle in Rio de Janiero. She is one of many from the northeast that migrated to Rio de Janiero, so theoretically maybe that is an assumption made about northeasterners? I’m not entirely sure.
Discussion Question: What does this text reveal about the life of poverty in Brazil?
Response: This literary piece reveals the inevitable fate of those in the slums through viewing the society in pessimistic perspectives. Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian female writer, shares a depressing, helpless, and soulless life of Macabea to emphasize the endless vicious cycle that strictly exists within the slums. Throughout the text, Lispector draws a clear distinction between the rich and poor through expressing her words in a straightforward manner, which she describes this writing technique as being “naked” (8). Her portrayal of Macabea as incompetent, hopeless, and emotionless signifies the true reality of the impoverished lives in Brazil. For example, Lispector states that Macabea’s “life was more tasteless to her than old bread with not butter” (50). She further points out that the life of a destitute female indicates emptiness which emotion, purpose of existence, and meaning in life were mere luxury (52,76). Moreover, the text implies that those from the slums were inherently designed to undergo a dismal life that would never possess the qualities of the rich. For example, Lispector mentions Macabea “was nervous about drinking rich people’s stuff [and that] she got sick” (57). Moreover, she notes that Macabea was forced by the society to be organically simple because she was “the rejects of a very high society” (58). Her demise caused by a Mercedes car, an evident indicator of richness, strongly emphasizes that those with low socioeconomic status were the subordinated entities of the larger society. Lispector concludes that “in the end [Macabea] was not more than a music box that was slightly out of tune” (77) and that [Macabea] “was finally free of herself” (76). Through actively engaging with her pessimistic perspectives, Lispector argues that the life of poverty was fatalistic and deliberately constructed to discriminate the poor from the mainstream society.
Lispector, Clarice. The hour of the star. Vol. 733. New Directions Publishing, 1986.