Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Hour of the Star begins and ends with passages that prominently feature the word “yes.” The “yes” at the beginning of the book is acquiescence to life: “Everything in the world began with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born.” The “yes” at the close of the book is an acceptance of death:

Dear God, only now am I remembering that people die. Does that include me?Don’t forget, in the meantime, that this is the season for strawberries. Yes.

Yet even this acceptance of death is interrupted with the insistence that one enjoy life for as long as it offers itself. Lispector died of cancer in the same year that The Hour of the Star was published. She characterizes death, “my favorite character in this story,” as the ultimate encounter with oneself.

Death and rebirth and metamorphoses are intimately linked in this twisted fairy tale of a Cinderella whose only transformation into the princess happens at the moment of her death. Lispector hangs Macabéa’s story on the frame of the fairy tale, with a wicked stepmother (the aunt), an uncaring father (the boss), a traitorous stepsister (Glória), a false suitor (Olímpico), and a fairy godmother (Madame Carlota). Yet the prince that Madame Carlota promises is only an illusion—at most, he is the driver of the Mercedes that runs Macabéa...

(The entire section is 409 words.)