The Imitation of the Rose

by Clarice Lispector

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 662

Laura, a Brazilian woman, is back in her home after spending time in an institution to recover from an undisclosed mental illness or breakdown. Happy to be home and well again, Laura returns to her old routine of tidying up the house and waiting for her husband, Armando, to return from work. Laura looks forward to doing the things she used to do with her husband. At the same time, she begins to reflect on her fading youth and the fact that she has never had children.

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Sitting in her home, she is tempted to doze off, but she reminds herself that she and Armando will go to dinner at her friend Carlota’s house that evening, and she still has much to do to prepare. In a reverie, Laura reviews the things she must do, noting that Carlota would surely despise her liking for routine. She paints a mental picture of how she and Armando will leave the house, with her low, thick hips transformed by a girdle into a more attractive shape. Continuing to daydream, Laura admits to herself that she is neat and ordinary, and a little boring, but seems happy she can let herself go with Armando. Although she realizes Armando seldom listens to her, she is content that she can tell him things without his getting annoyed, as do the maid and others.

Opening her eyes, she sees a vase of flowers, wild roses she bought that morning at the market at the florist’s insistence. Their beauty and perfection strike her as she gazes at them, although she feels a moment of unease and a touch of perplexity, which she vaguely attributes to the roses’ beauty. Hearing the footsteps of Maria, the maid, she decides to have Maria carry the roses to Carlota’s house and leave them as a gift. Slightly disturbed by the roses yet attracted as well by them, Laura again slips into a reverie as she justifies to herself why sending the roses would be for the best. Feigning decisiveness, she orders Maria to call at Carlota’s and leave the roses. While preparing the flowers, however, Laura begins to have doubts about giving the flowers away, doubts that become frighteningly strong a moment later. First she thinks of why she should keep the roses; moments later, she realizes that there would be no turning back. Sad but terrified at her own confusion, she resolves to give the roses to Maria.

As Maria takes hold of the roses, Laura briefly draws back her hand in a feeble attempt to keep them for herself, vowing, however, never again to be tempted by perfection. For several final seconds, Laura frantically considers how she might get the roses back, going so far as to consider stealing them from Maria, yet again does nothing. Soon Maria is gone and Laura is alone, missing the roses—whose absence has left her feeling an intense sense of loss. “In her heart, that one rose, which at least she could have taken for herself without prejudicing anyone in the world, was gone.”

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Deeply fatigued from her struggle, Laura tries to envision the roses within herself, which she finds is not difficult. Her tiredness lifts, and she begins again to plan what she will wear that evening when she and Armando go to Carlota’s. She imagines how Armando will arrive, relieved as always that nothing had happened while he was gone—her husband, whose sense of well-being is somehow dependent on Laura’s being ill. When Laura calmly and sweetly tells Armando that her illness, or at least some of its symptoms, came back while he was gone, he pretends not to understand, although he surely does. Laura’s uncharacteristic serenity and lack of haste unnerve her husband, causing him to question her harshly. The story concludes with a dejected Armando staring at Laura as she sits serenely on the couch, distant from him in both mind and spirit.

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