An Apprenticeship: Or, The Book of Delights Summary

Clarice Lispector


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

An Apprenticeship may well be Lispector’s most accessible novel, although it deals with some of the same issues as her more complex and difficult works. At the novel’s beginning, Lori, the main character, is preparing to meet her suitor and mentor, the young philosophy teacher Ulysses. Waves of nausea overcome her and she feels she must cancel the appointment. Her nausea stems from feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness when she considers the vastness of being. She knows that her life has no determined shape, and that only she can give it shape, but this knowledge results at first in imprisonment in dread rather than liberation. She does not accept her freedom to shape her own life, and to give and accept love. Her predicament is symbolized by an event in her past when, lost in a foreign city, she did not remember the name of her hotel, and in a panic asked the taxi driver to keep driving, hoping that she would find her way back.

Lori does finally choose to keep the appointment, which is a first step toward freedom. Through a series of meetings with Ulysses, through meditating on what he says, and through prayer toward an undefined, impersonal god for courage to live, Lori draws closer to full participation in life. She learns to accept her body, and to live in it. She learns to take part in social occasions and withstand the gaze of the world, to enjoy the pleasures of natural beauty, and to give of herself. While Ulysses is courting...

(The entire section is 446 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Castillo, Debra. Talking Back: Toward a Latin American Feminist Literary Criticism. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992.

Cixous, Helene. “Coming to Writing” and Other Essays. Translated by Sarah Cornell et al. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Cixous, Helene. Reading with Clarice Lispector. Translated by Verena A. Conley. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990.

Fitz, Earl E. Clarice Lispector. Boston: Twayne, 1985.

Fitz, Earl E. Sexuality and Being in the Poststructuralist Universe of Clarice Lispector: The Difference of Desire. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Lindstrom, Naomi. Women’s Voice in Latin American Literature. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1989.

Peixoto, Marta. Passionate Fictions: Gender, Narrative, and Violence in Clarice Lispector. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1994.

Santos, Cristina. Bending the Rules in the Quest for an Authentic Female Identity: Clarice Lispector and Carmen Boullosa. New York: P. Lang, 2004.

Trigo, Benigno. Remembering Maternal Bodies: Melancholy in Latina and Latin American Women’s Writing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Williams, Claire. Encounter Between Opposites in the Works of Clarice Lispector. Bristol, England: University of Bristol, 2006.