Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
In The Hour of the Star, Clarice Lispector creates a male narrator, Rodrigo S. M., to write the story of a young Brazilian girl who has recently moved to Rio de Janeiro. The narrator has caught sight of this young girl on the street. She is nothing special; the slums of Rio de Janeiro are filled with thousands like her, shopgirls and office workers sharing one-room flats, invisible and superfluous, silent in the clamor of the city.
The first quarter of the book is taken up with Rodrigo’s ruminations on why and how he is writing the story of this young girl. He declares that her story must be told by a man, for a woman would feel too much sympathy and end up in tears. The story must be told simply and with humility, for it is about the unremarkable adventures and the shadowy existence of a young girl trying to survive in a hostile city. Rodrigo feels the need to identify with his subject, so he decides to share her condition as closely as possible by wearing threadbare clothes, suffering from lack of sleep, neglecting to shave, giving up sex and football, avoiding human contact, and immersing himself in nothingness. He envisions this identification with his protagonist as a quest for transfiguration and his “ultimate materialization into an object. Perhaps I might even acquire the sweet tones of the flute and become entwined in a creeper vine.”
After describing the disastrous physical appearance of the girl, Rodrigo briefly...
(The entire section is 1051 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
This brief, densely written novel explores the relationship between writer and work and subject and object in a way that casts doubt on traditional categories. The novel is about a man writing about a woman. The writer, Rodrigo, is educated, sensitive, and politically aware. The woman, Macabéa, is deprived, impoverished, and barely aware of her own existence.
The title refers to the writer’s idea that at death everyone is a star, presumably since at death, the great mystery is revealed. Macabéa in her few short years experiences misery, desire, and rejection, and then after finally being made aware of her unhappiness by a fortune-teller, she is run over by a Mercedes and killed. Lying in the street, she has her “hour of the star”: “She felt like vomiting something that was not matter but luminous. Star with a thousand pointed rays.” When she does die, her creator, tangled in her story, feels that in some sense he dies, too. Macabéa’s biographer is, however, still alive at story’s end, pondering: “Dear God, only now am I remembering that people die. Does that include me?”
Written just before Lispector’s death from cancer and published in the year of her death, this novel raises important questions about the meaning of death, the relationship between author and work, and the isolation of the individual, but it does not provide answers. It suggests, rather, that there are none. Its uncertainty is suggested by the fact that...
(The entire section is 362 words.)