Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Like many of Clarice Lispector’s works, “The Imitation of the Rose” focuses on an individual’s subjective perception of the world in which she lives. Although it is clear that Laura has recently returned from an institution at which she was treated for a breakdown, Lispector is concerned with portraying the complex mental processes of her protagonist and how these processes structure her reality, rather than presenting a case study of the illness itself. The history of Laura’s illness is obscure, yet certain suggestions are given as to the nature of her ailment, probably a form of manic-depression, coupled with obsessive behavior.

Lispector’s story invites comparison to another fictive account of a woman suffering from mental illness, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892), because the real cause of her illness appears to lie not in a personal defect but in the suffocating social environment in which she lives. Laura’s doctor and husband both take an uncompromisingly patronizing attitude toward Laura, treating her like a child who cannot do anything for herself or make important decisions. Her mental and emotional vacillations are symptoms of how she has been treated by others, mostly the men, in her life.

Laura’s decision to send the wild roses that she has bought to her friend Carlota represents a small, yet significant, even if unconscious, attempt to make an independent decision and establish a more secure sense of her own identity. The perfection of the roses represents not the...

(The entire section is 632 words.)