Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Lispector is internationally known for her lyrical style of writing, which blurs the line between prose and poetry. This lyricism is in large part a result of the subject matter with which she deals. Her stories are primarily interior monologues, probing their characters’ psychic reality. The conflict of one of her stories is always within the mind of the main character, exploring the way people, things, and events in the physical world effect unexpected and seemingly unrelated reactions in the individual’s psyche. The character’s changing psychic perspective dominates both the style and structure of the narrative, as the author’s focus tightens around the effects of situations, rather than the situations themselves. This structurally inventive style was considered at least unconventional, if not radically groundbreaking, in 1944 when Lispector’s first novel was published.

The lyricism of Lispector’s prose is found not just in the rhythm of its sentence structure but also in the way the actual words used move seamlessly between real-world and the other-worldly realm. Again, this is reflected in the nature of her subject matter, flowing between the practical, social quotidian and the dreamlike inner reality of self. For language to have meaning one must be able to relate to it; in order to relate, the gap between self and other must be bridged. Lispector is skilled at transforming the nonlinear inner reality of her characters into a linear expression that retains its meaning.

As in Lispector’s other stories, “The Daydreams of a Drunk Woman” is structured around an epiphany. The first half of the story, in which Maria moves in and out of consciousness, toying with different constructions of her self, can be viewed as a slow build toward the epiphanal moment in the restaurant when she realizes that the freedom afforded her by her position as wife is also her shackle keeping her from exploring her true self. The ambiguous ending is also typical of Lispector, leaving the reader to wonder whether Maria will again resign herself with a sigh, or free herself with a boisterous laughing shout.