The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Passion According to G. H. has an extremely tight focus. From G. H.’s viewpoint, the novel recounts what happened one morning while she worked and sat alone in her flat. Nothing about G. H.’s life is reported unless a memory of it turns up in this space of time—the reader learns nothing about the narrator’s childhood, for example, since none of her mental associations lead to thoughts of it—and other characters are sketched only to the degree that they occur in her reminiscences. Aside from her maid, other people who appear in the book are not even named. The fact that the speaker laconically calls herself G. H. is thus a relative matter, since even this slight designation gives her more substantiality than is granted to other figures in the book. Lispector’s strategy for describing her main character, then, is to keep personal details to a minimum without eliminating them altogether.

G. H. has had a shallow life, according to the details that do appear to describe her. Her life is taken up with such insignificant pursuits as gossiping and partying. Though she is a sculptress, she does not labor seriously at her art; though she is a social butterfly, she has no special confidantes or long-term love relationship. Yet she has, on occasion and only for brief spans, longed for a more profound connection to the universe. These details serve to anchor the character firmly in reality, so that what happens to her seems neither...

(The entire section is 511 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

G. H.

G. H., a Brazilian woman identified only by her initials. G. H. narrates the story, which is largely concerned with recording her psychological reactions during a moment of self-reevaluation and turmoil. She is a middle-aged, middle-class amateur artist living in Rio de Janeiro who has enough income from investments to live well and amuse herself by sculpting. She has many friends and loves to go to parties, restaurants, and dance clubs, yet she has never formed any but shallow relationships. Although she has had a number of lovers, it seems that none of them has touched her deeply or established a long-term alliance with her. When she accidentally became pregnant, she hurried to have an abortion so that she would not be tied down. Nothing is told about her parents or early years, but it is hinted that she has had one lover in particular for whom she developed a profound affection; unfortunately, she was blind to her own feelings at the time. The novel focuses on G. H.’s thoughts one morning when she begins reconsidering the philosophical basis of her life. In the end, G. H. resolves to live in accordance with her newly enriched vision of the world, but it is left teasingly unclear whether, and how, she will keep her promise to herself.


Janair, G. H.’s maid, whose abrupt and unexplained departure leads G. H. to clean the servant’s room and find that Janair has altered it in unusual ways, stripping...

(The entire section is 403 words.)