Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Apple in the Dark is an allegory of the human condition. More specifically, it is the story of one man’s struggle to create a new identity. Just as Martim, the protagonist, seems about to realize his goal, however, he loses his courage and chooses to reassume the comfortable though shallow and inauthentic identity that he had originally possessed. In his quest for a new identity, Martim’s relationships with two women are of primary importance. The dissection of the psychological and philosophical aspects of the feminine consciousness in the novel gives the work a “feminist” dimension.

In this complex lyrical novel, structural design is of primary importance; the traditional roles of action, plot, dialogue, and characterization are relegated to lower levels of significance. Clarice Lispector creates a structure composed basically of images (appearing in isolation as well as in patterns) in the atmospheric world in which Martim moves. Martim is a self-reflective, passive wanderer who is constantly acted upon by the bewildering maze of objects and presences which seemingly envelop him.

Instead of a traditional plot involving a carefully calculated sequence of cause-and-effect actions proceeding logically toward a resolution, the tedious, often regressive and erratic thought processes and relationships of the three protagonists constitute the fundamental focus and fascination of the work. The author transforms her characters’ thoughts, emotional turmoil, and life experiences into essentially silent and associational stream-of-consciousness...

(The entire section is 647 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Apple in the Dark stands out as a decisive moment in Lispector’s development as a novelist. The work is “feminist” insofar as it attempts to explain the mechanics of cruelty, oppression, and violence through a story that is developed in a world in which men and women coexist. Representative of the feminist impulse in Latin American literature, Lispector’s novel implies that apart from its purely aesthetic function, literature can serve a useful social purpose. Lispector achieves this goal by speaking of the larger, eternal truths about the human condition and by bringing men and women together, united in a common struggle against all forms of tyranny and oppression, psychological as well as political.

Representing the high point of her career to that point, this symbolic, introspective novel reveals Lispector’s embrace of many of the narrative techniques often associated with the mature work of such writers as Virginia Woolf, Herman Hesse, and André Gide. Like Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Albert Camus, Lispector is interested in recording the various psychological states of her characters and demonstrates the multiple, often-conflicting responses of human consciousness to specific external stimuli. The Apple in the Dark is the culmination of the kind of philosophical writing that Lispector had been doing prior to 1961. Her work after this prize-winning novel was to become more and more typical of what has been termed the...

(The entire section is 492 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Cixòus, Helene. Reading with Clarice Lispector. Edited and translated by Verena Andermatt Conley. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. Excerpts from Cixòus’ readings of Lispector from 1980 to 1985. Cixòus discusses Lispector’s work in light of l’ecriture feminine, that is, writing based on an encounter with another—a body, a piece of writing, a social dilemma—that leads to an undoing of the hierarchies and oppositions that determine the limits of most conscious life.

Coutinho, Afranio. An Introduction to Literature in Brazil. Translated by Gregory Rabassa. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. The noted Brazilian critic places Lispector in the historical development of Brazilian literature and evaluates her contribution to it. Focuses specifically on her “atmospheric” fiction, its strong emotional content, and her skill at creating a metaphorical language. Contains a bibliography.

Fitz, Earl E. Clarice Lispector. Boston: Twayne, 1985. This study, while undertaking certain intrinsic discussions of Lispector’s work, also attempts to place her in her proper Brazilian and Latin American contexts. Fitz urges the reader to interpret Lispector’s fiction not as an isolated case of narrative experimentalism in one of Western literature’s most neglected national literatures, but as coming from...

(The entire section is 500 words.)