Representation of Power in Lispector’s Hour of the Star

Clarice Lispector’s novelette, The Hour of the Star, is a very intriguing read that portrays the unfortunate life of a poor typist through the eyes of the narrator.  The story reveals the poor girl as being a “nobody” trying to get by in the postcolonial slums of Rio.  Her destiny is in the hands of Rodrigo S.M. because he is the story teller/ narrator of the novelette.  We are very aware of Rodrigo’s presence throughout the novelette because a lot of the focus is on him.  Lispector’s text is a representation of “power.” Rodrigo S.M. has complete power over the girl because he is making the story up as he goes.  Whatever comes to his mind will be the life of the girl.

Rodrigo S.M. is an integral part of the story.  He has power over the life and total existence of Macabea’s character.  In the beginning of the novelette he says, “so I shall attempt, contrary to my normal method, to write a story with a beginning, a middle, and a ‘grand finale’ followed by silence and falling rain” (Lispector 13).  I believe that he did just as he said he would, he created a story and I was left with “silence and falling rain” at the end because it is some what mystifying and nothing has really been answered at the end.  The novelette ends leaving the reader feeling sympathy for the girl.  I almost wished there were a happy ending, and there could have been if Rodrigo’s character wanted Macabea’s story to end happily, but that was not his purpose.  His purpose was to reveal the life of Macabea, whos life is just like that of thousands of other poor girls from Rio, “What I am writing is something more than mere invention; it is my duty to relate everything about this girl among thousands of others like her” Lispector 13).

Although Rodrigo seems to have all the power here, his power is limited because he wants to reveal the life of a girl in a hostile city.  He must portray her in a “real” way, the way that thousands of girls live.  Macabea’s character is meant to be interchangeable and generic.  Rodrigo says, “I am holding her destiny in my hands and yet I am powerless to invent with any freedom.  Rodrigo also says, “I must add one important detail to help the reader understand the narrative: it is accompanied from start to finish by the faintest yet nagging twinge of toothache, caused by an exposed nerve” (Lispector 23).  Rodrigo is the creator of this “nagging toothache.” It is my belief that Rodrigo is the exposed nerve.  He has exposed himself from the very beginning and from that point on he creates the nagging which is a constant portrayal of the misery of Macabea. He reminds us throughout that Macabea is unhappy even if she does not fully realize it.  It is made fully clear to the reader.

This fictional story feels very real and although we are warned from the beginning that the events of Macabea’s life are false.  You would think that with Rodrigo being so revealing of himself it would take away from the reality of the novelette but it does the opposite.  Rodrigo guides us through the narrative in a way that we believe everything that he is saying.  Macabeas misery is at the hands of the narrator but he is only narrating secret truths lived by the poorest of the poor in a postcolonial slum.

Lispector, Clarice.  The Hour of the Star.  New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1992.

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