Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Clarice Lispector’s Family Ties is a collection of thirteen stories, six of which had been published in a previous collection, Alguns Contos, in 1952. Like much of Lispector’s fiction, and particularly her early stories, these tales are intense and sharply focused narratives in which a single character (almost always female) is suddenly and dramatically forced to deal with a question concerning an integral part of her existence. Save for a single act that prompts each story’s character to look inward, there is little action in the stories, as the author seeks not to develop a traditional, action-filled plot but instead to capture a moment in the character’s life and, much more important, the character’s reaction to that moment, as she (and occasionally he) is shocked out of complacency and forced into a situation that will lead her to self-examination and, in most cases, self-discovery. The epiphany-centered content of the stories, combined with Lispector’s subjective, highly metaphorical, even lyrical prose, produces a collection of stories that read and communicate to the reader more like poetry than prose.

Arranged in no apparent particular order within the collection, the stories that make up Family Ties are “The Daydreams of a Drunken Woman,” “Love,” “The Chicken,” “The Imitation of the Rose,” “Happy Birthday,” “The Smallest Women in the World,” “The Dinner,” “Preciousness,”...

(The entire section is 598 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Clarice Lispector was the first of a number of important and critically acclaimed women writers (among them Isabel Allende, Luisa Valenzuela, and Elena Poniatowska) to come on the scene in Latin American literature during the second half of the twentieth century. Family Ties (and particularly the stories that deal with female protagonists) clearly stands as the first important collection of short fiction of this group of writers, who have in common gender and, to one degree or another, gender-based concerns.

There is no question that most of the stories in Family Ties deal either with women’s issues or with more genderless issues from a woman’s perspective. Many of them, for example, at least touch on the female protagonist’s role as wife (“Love”), daughter (“Family Ties”), young woman (“Preciousness”), mother (“Love,” “Family Ties,” “Happy Birthday”), or lover (“The Buffalo”), and the lives of the characters as defined in large part by their relationships with men, including husbands (“Love”), sons (“Family Ties”), and lovers (“The Buffalo”). Often the epiphanies the female characters experience make them see their lives, including these relationships (and the men in them), more clearly. As mentioned above, however, most of the characters return to their everyday existence without, it seems, making any permanent change, either because it would not be socially acceptable to do so or because...

(The entire section is 537 words.)

Historical Context

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

The 1960s in Brazil
Brazil is a country whose economy has been largely dependent upon the world price of coffee. It did not...

(The entire section is 812 words.)

Literary Style

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Point of View
Point of view, as defined by C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon in A Handbook to Literature, 6th edition...

(The entire section is 766 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

1960: In Brazil, President Juscelino Kubitschek encouraged nationalism through public works projects sponsored by the government, but...

(The entire section is 341 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Why does Catherine have the urge to laugh at her husband's discomfiture when her mother apologizes to him for "anything [she] might have said...

(The entire section is 107 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea (originally published in 1935 and issued in English translation in 1965), an existentialist novel about a...

(The entire section is 113 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Ayer, A. J., and Jane Grady, eds., A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations, Basil Blackwell Reference, 1992, pp....

(The entire section is 471 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Fitz, Earl E. Clarice Lispector. Boston: Twayne, 1985. The foremost authority on Lispector’s fiction devotes roughly eleven pages of his chapter “Novels and Stories” to Family Ties (and Alguns Contos, in which six of the stories were published earlier). Fitz provides an excellent overview of the stories that make up the collection, which he calls “one of the most original and powerful books of its time in Latin America.” The critic concentrates his discussion on the internal nature of Lispector’s stories and the skill with which she renders it. “Love” receives almost seven pages of meticulous analysis. Titles and most quotations...

(The entire section is 554 words.)