The Passion According to G. H. Critical Evaluation - Essay

Clarice Lispector

Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Clarice Lispector’s narrator in The Passion According to G. H. presents the reader with a woman who communicates in the first person and reveals a severely introspective adventure of self-discovery and deconstruction of life and reality. At times, this self-discovery reveals how nothingness can be more meaningful than reality. A seemingly trivial event, the killing of a cockroach, leads G. H. to a detailed self-examination not only of life, love, hope, and existence but also of how everything that humans are might be nothing more than linguistic justification of a nonreality. The narrative encounter delves into the possibility that much of what is assumed to be human might be nothing more than the linguistic antimatter of a nonentity.

The reader knows little about G. H., and even her name remains unknown: The initials G. H. are observed only on a piece of luggage. The relentless self-questioning leads to no meaningful answers, but rather an abundance of mystical vacuums in the woman’s existence. One is aware of the woman’s pretentious and arrogant life until the day of the novel, but one does not find solutions to what life and its events should represent tomorrow. The Passion According to G. H. is a work of questions that encourages the reader to further question life.

Structurally, the chapters are textually linked. Each chapter starts with the last sentence of the previous chapter. This work progressively takes the reader, chapter by chapter, into a vortex that descends from a pampered and protected life of wealth and privilege and eventually arrives in a place where nothing can be presupposed to be reality. G. H.’s well-defined world is reduced to the questions concerning the killing of a cockroach in her former maid’s quarters, which represents the antithesis of G. H.

Although she is filled with overt fears of what her self-examination might reveal, G. H. is nevertheless driven by the fear of not confronting the truths that will be revealed. What remains of her self-evaluation is a secular reenactment of a spiritual rebirth, that is, the consumption of the martyred cockroach. This is the only clue that the reader is given that the woman has left her previous world of hyperconsumerism, mass consumption, to begin a new life, free from former restraints on reality.

Because the action in this work is almost nonexistent, critical evaluation must be based on the form and substance of the narrator’s thoughts. Lispector’s deconstruction of thought and of the linguistic representation of thought can be found in her idiosyncratic juxtaposition of the spoken word (or the logical textual meaning of it) and the philosophical or existential absurdity of the complete lack of true linguistic meaning. That is, G. H.’s self-interrogation leads her to discover the other side of everything linguistic: For example, what is ephemeral is also eternal. What is eternal in her manners and thoughts is actually only a momentary linguistic response to a circumstance.

Lispector employs a disjointed grammar and a continuous stream of narrative consciousness, repetition, and contradiction that forces the reader to continually verify the truth or lack of truth in the narrator’s presentation of her life and values. The work at times swings wildly...

(The entire section is 1353 words.)